Disclaimer: I don't own these characters; I'm merely borrowing them for the ride.
Background: This story was inspired both by the book and the musical. I took the things I liked better from each one.
Author's Note: I apologize profusely for all the language mistakes that I'm sure I have made. English is not my mother tongue and this is my first attempt at writing, so please bear with me ;).
Feedback is very welcome; good, bad or in between...
Chapter 31 – Truth Hurts
"You've been awfully quiet all morning, Glinda." Elphaba spoke after what, to her, seemed like days of journey. The silence between them was making her uneasy. "Is something the matter?"
Glinda spared a look towards her friend but didn't answer the question. She merely shook her head and tightened her lips, trying to brush off Elphaba's question.
They had been walking for hours. The maunts had only been able to spare a cart, and it had made more sense giving it to the other group. Four persons walking away from the Emerald City along the relatively empty roads was bound to draw more attention than a couple of maunts going about some Cluster business in the country. Plus, the fact that both of them could become airborne if need arose made the decision even more logical.
Right now, though, Glinda was regretting that decision with a fierce passion. It was true that they could fly away if needed, but truth be told, she was still extremely weak from her injuries, and staying atop a broom required a certain amount of strength that she didn't feel she possessed quite yet.
The other thing adding to her sullen mood, besides the 'Elphaba subject', was the fact that they had to keep away from the main roads, thus making both witches go traipsing through the wild forest for the last couple of hours, trying to cover as much ground as possible without being noticed during the light hours.
The difficult terrain wasn't helping Glinda's recovery one bit. She was exhausted, and her face must have shown just how very tired she was, because Elphaba had asked in numerous occasions if she needed a break. Glinda had refused time and time again, though.
She was tired, that much was true, but the prospect of stopping seemed even worse than fatigue to her. If they stopped, it would be strange of her to keep up the silence that had accompanied them all morning. At least while they were walking, Glinda had the excuse of still being a bit short of breath because of her convalescence. But if they stopped, Elphaba wouldn't put up with the silent treatment any longer. The green witch was far from being a talkative person, but Glinda was sure Elphaba knew something was up with her. The blonde woman knew that since the talk in the garden that morning, Elphaba had realized something had changed in her demeanor, and she wasn't going to keep silent about it, no matter how much Glinda wanted her to.
They came to a clearing in the woods, and without saying a word, Elphaba stopped. Glinda, who was walking a couple of steps behind, almost crashed into her back. The blonde woman had been so engrossed in her thoughts that hadn't even noticed the figure in front of her.
Elphaba looked down at her face but didn't say a word. The last brush off from Glinda had felt more like a silent lash out than a mere noncommittal gesture, Elphaba was still stinging from that rebuff. It was obvious that the Superior Maunt had said something that had upset Glinda greatly; she knew that. She could even guess what it was that the old woman had said. What she couldn't understand was the reason why Glinda was taking it so hard, and more importantly, why was she refusing to talk about it.
They stood like that for a couple of seconds, neither of them daring break the uncomfortable silence, both holding the other's gaze until Elphaba finally spoke.
"We should take a break." She said, in a tone that made it sound more like an order than a suggestion.
"I'm alright." Glinda lied defensively. She didn't want to stop. She didn't want to talk to her, at least not yet.
"I need to rest for a bit, Glinda." Now it was Elphaba's turn to lie. "The burns in my legs are killing me." If Glinda didn't want to be the reason for a break, Elphaba would give her that much, but the blonde woman needed to rest, and Elphaba would make sure of it.
Glinda's face had become ashen as the hours had gone on, and her blue eyes reflected the tiredness she must had been feeling. Those same blue eyes softened a bit when she heard Elphaba's words, though. She nodded her approval and followed the taller woman towards some stumps and fallen trunks on one side of the clearing.
They sat over the dry wood, trying to keep away from the damp ground underneath their feet. The sun was shinning, but the copious rain that had fallen the previous days had left the terrain flooded in some places.
Elphaba removed some bread and fruit from the small sack the maunts had given them and started preparing their austere meal. The bag also contained some cheese, dried meat and water; much like the bag Liir and his companions had gotten, only with smaller portions. She cut two slices of bread and handed one to Glinda, whom eyed the food warily before coming to the conclusion that, not eating wasn't going to serve any other purpose than making her feel even more tired.
She took the bread and said a soft thank you to Elphaba before lowering her eyes once again. She missed the small smile that appeared on the raven-haired woman's lips upon seeing her inner discussion reflected in her expression. The blonde woman didn't feel the need to start a conversation, so she just nibbled lazily at her bread and looked everywhere but at Elphaba.
The taller woman finished her lunch long before Glinda had, and she used the time to tend to her injuries. She took some of the oils from her bag and put them beside her on the stump's irregular surface. She had said her burns were bothering her mostly to get Glinda to agree to a break but, truth be told, the burns had been stinging for the last couple of miles of their journey. She thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to use the break to take care of them.
Glinda caught the movement from the corner of her eye and observed how Elphaba rubbed the healing oils over her burnt skin. The sight of that beautiful green skin shinning a reddish hue made her remember how those burns had come to be, and suddenly, she was filled with shame. She was appalled by the way she had been behaving all morning.
"I'm sorry." She said quietly, almost too quietly for Elphaba to hear. But the other woman did hear it, and she looked up, catching the unguarded look on Glinda's eyes, which were still fixed on the burnt skin.
"I told you. It is okay." Elphaba said softly, rubbing the oil all the way down to her ankle. "I said I would do it again if I had to, and I did mean it."
Glinda shook her head at Elphaba's words. Partly because she felt the sting of tears behind her eyes, but mostly to let Elphaba know that, that wasn't the reason for her apology, at least not the only reason.
"I'm sorry for acting like a spoiled brat all morning." She finally said.
"Ohhh, that." Elphaba smiled, taking the sting out of her words. "That's what that was? I barely noticed, really."
"Right." Glinda looked at her with an amused smile. "I bet the tenth time I refused to engage in conversation you thought that, maybe speech impairment was one of the side effects of those remedies you gave me."
"In fact," Elphaba answered, not loosing the smile. "I think it might be one of the side effects, along with crankiness."
"Really?" The blonde took the good-natured jab in stride. It wasn't a lie, after all. She had been acting like a cranky child all morning.
"Well, then you must self medicate a lot, dear." Glinda jested back, and Elphaba's chuckle escaped her mouth before she could help it.
"Indeed." The green woman shook her head in amusement. No matter what, Glinda always seemed to have the upper hand in their repartee. She had missed those moments more than she could say.
"I know about Liir." Glinda finally addressed the subject that had been hanging around them since that morning.
Elphaba didn't look up. She kept rubbing the oils over her calves, trying to make the stinging ache go away, but mostly, trying to regroup herself for the conversation ahead. She finally put the lids back on the bottles and put them away in her leather bag. No matter how much more oil she put in her skin, she knew it wasn't going to ache any less than it already did. At least, after the ointment, the pain was more bearable.
She looked up slowly, and found Glinda's eyes looking at her. Elphaba would have loved to see the smile still in her friend's features, even a bit of anger would have been fine with her, but instead, she found an expressionless Glinda observing her. She didn't know how the blonde woman was feeling or what she was thinking, and that unsettled her.
"I know he's your son." Glinda finished.
Elphaba recoiled a bit from Glinda's words. She didn't recoil because the other woman's words had been said mean spiritedly; she knew Glinda was just stating a fact. It wasn't that. It was the simple fact of hearing those words out loud which gave her pause. Those words referring to Liir and her. My son. She thought. Funny how Glinda saying those words made them so much more real.
"Aren't you going to say anything?" Glinda's voice took Elphaba out of her reverie.
"I'm sorry. I was just thinking how real it seems when you say it." Elphaba said, not being able to help voicing her thoughts.
"Wasn't it real before?" Glinda asked dumbfounded, not sure about what Elphaba was getting at.
"It was, very much so. Only…" Elphaba didn't try to look away; she held Glinda's eyes trying to make her understand.
"Only what, Elpahaba?"
"Only, I didn't let myself think about it. I didn't let myself acknowledge the fact." The green Witch said, still holding Glinda's gaze. She had to make her understand.
But Glinda didn't understand, she couldn't. She didn't want to understand what Elphaba's eyes were trying to tell her.
"It hurt too much, Glin." Elphaba finally said, and a lone tear escaped Glnda's eye when she heard those words.
She couldn't feign ignorance anymore. She couldn't blissfully hide from the truth that Elphaba's words unveiled.
"Fiyero's?" That was the simple question that left the blonde's lips, and even though she already knew the answer, she needed Elphaba to say it. No, that wasn't true. What she really needed was for Elphaba to deny it, but she knew it wasn't to be.
That single word hurt like a million daggers thrown her way, ripping the flesh from her bones. Glinda didn't really understand why it hurt so much to know that Liir was Fiyero's son, but it did. It filled her with so many emotions that she didn't let herself speak for fear of what she might say. She was furious. She felt such fury, hurt and anger; she didn't even have the words to describe her feelings in that moment.
She felt disappointed, once again in her life. She should have been used to it by now, but she wasn't. It still hurt as much as the first time. Ginda felt empty, but most of all, she felt betrayed by the only person she thought would never betray her.
Elphaba didn't try to justify herself; she didn't try to say anything else. The myriad of emotions that went through Glinda's face was enough to left her speechless. When the blonde woman stood and walked away quietly, she didn't dare follow.
To be continued...
Sorry for the update delay, and as always, thank you for sticking around and commenting. I won't make any promises as to when will I update next because I always seem to break those promises, but I can promise I'll try to upload a new chapter soon. In the meantime, you can follow moodified on twitter for instant update alerts. Thanks again!