Author's Note: I don't normally post notes like these, or mention anything about my personal life. But, since this story has been gathering dust for nearly 3 months, I thought an explanation was in order. I had an incredibly busy summer, and struggled w/ thoughts about my competency as a writer. My new beta, Anna, has been more helpful w/ things than she probably realizes. I would have gotten back to my writing sooner, except that nearly a month ago I had to put my dog to sleep. I miss her every day, and I don't know that I will ever be the same. I love you, Sydney.
Darkness and Light
The first few months spent at the castle were difficult for almost everyone in the family. Fiyero took over the duties of the kingship easily enough, but worried about his father being consumed by loneliness in his new state as a widower. Even more, Fiyero was concerned for Elphaba, who at first had seemed to be adjusting well to being queen and being away from the city. After the coronation, though, she seemed to merely be going through the motions. Elphaba began to spend every possible moment either with her children or, when the weather permitted, walking the extensive grounds of the castle by herself.
While Elphaba's duties as queen were somewhat like her former job in the city, there was so much more... Most of all, it was the large dinner parties that Elphaba dreaded. She had absolutely no choice but to play hostess, and she never failed to find herself wishing she could take her dinner in the kitchen with the children.
One rainy afternoon, Fiyero decided he had kept silent too long. He went in search of Elphaba, whom he found helping Graiya and Stavna with their schoolwork as Talissana played at her feet. One look at their father's face told the older girls they best leave the room. As they went, Graiya picked Talissana up and took her with them, as well as a couple of the younger girl's toys.
Elphaba remained seated where she was, but did not speak to her husband. Fiyero sighed and took a seat beside her. He frowned when she also avoided his eyes, choosing to stare out a nearby window.
"Elphaba, you've been acting so strange. I'm worried about you. I know being queen is an adjustment; it isn't easy being king, either. But if you won't talk to me, how can I help you?"
"You can't," Elphaba said. "What's the use of talking about something that won't change no matter what I say?"
"What can't change? You mean us, living here?"
Elphaba nodded tersely but said nothing. Fiyero sighed. "Ivy, we talked about this before we came here. When you need to go back to the city, you can. No one is forcing you to stay here."
Elphaba laughed bitterly, "You obviously don't pay attention to the servants' talk, do you? I said something to the girls one day about wanting to go home. Within a day or two, I heard the maids talking in the kitchen, saying I must want to leave because I have a... Because I'm being unfaithful to you."
Fiyero's eyes flashed with anger. "Who said that? Whoever it was, I will fire them. Today!"
"It won't matter," Elphaba whispered, waving away his assertion. "The others will still talk now that the idea is in their heads, and you can't fire the entire staff. I'll stay here. That way they can't get any 'proof' of their suspicions."
"You don't have to stay anywhere you don't want to be. We've been here for months. You've earned a visit back home. I want you to take the girls and go for a visit. I'd never believe such stupid gossip, and I will take care of it. Please go, Ivy. You've been so unhappy. I can't go with you right now and I'll miss you. But missing you will be worth it if it will make you happy."
Elphaba smiled for the first time that day and at last met her husband's eyes. "Actually, I've had things packed for myself and the children for a couple of weeks now. I just didn't know when we'd have a chance to talk about... Are you sure you want to take care of the problem with that maid? It's me she's gossiping about. I should handle it."
"No one talks about you that way and escapes hearing from me. Don't worry. Will you leave tomorrow?" Fiyero gazed intently at his wife, and was relieved to see her smile widen. He reached out and took both of her hands in his, squeezing them lightly.
"I think so. Graiya and Stavna can bring their schoolbooks along and at least try to keep up with their lessons. We shouldn't be gone long. It will get lonely for you here by yourself, Fiyero."
"Don't worry about me. I will keep busy. Travion and Glinda promised they'd look after the house, so it should be all ready for you. Even though they're likely to ask you to stay at their place anyway," Fiyero said with a laugh.
Elphaba and her daughters arrived in the city on a warm, sunny day, which put them all in a good mood. They all stayed at the family home only long enough to drop off their bags and check that everything in the house seemed in order. Then they took the short walk to Glinda and Travion's house where Elphaba's sounding of the bell was answered by Olive rather than one of the maids.
"We've been waiting for you!" the nearly thirteen-year-old cried happily. "Mama said you'd get here today. I've missed you!" Olive gave hugs all around, including to Talissana, who didn't seem to enjoy it as the others did. Olive began to chatter away to her cousins after inviting everyone in, but kept an eye on her aunt.
A short time later, Glinda came downstairs, calling Olive's name. She stopped near the bottom of the staircase, crying out in surprise when she saw they had company.
"Oh, you're here! I'm sorry, I was so busy! Olive, why didn't you come tell me Aunt Elphie was here?"
Olive made no direct reply to her mother's question. She just frowned and mumbled something about wanting to spend time with their company without her mother hanging around.
"It's all right, we've been having a good time sitting here talking," Elphaba said gently, taking note of her niece's unhappy expression. "How are you, Glinda? It's been too long since I last saw you. It's so nice to be home."
"I've been fine," Glinda said with a smile that Elphaba immediately recognized as being forced. "Very busy, like I said. I'm glad you're here. I've missed you."
"I've missed you too," Elphaba said quietly, hurrying on to another subject when she saw tears in Glinda's eyes. "Fiyero had to stay back at the castle, but he said to tell everyone hello and that he hopes to be able to come for a visit soon."
The entire family sat together talking for some time, mostly about Olive's school activities and Glinda's most recent troubles at her job, until Travion arrived home from work at his tea shop. When he arrived, all four of the girls went to greet him at the door. Though he seemed worn out from his day, Travion announced that he would be preparing that evening's dinner personally. The girls followed him to the kitchen, eager to help in any way they could. This left the two long-time best friends to talk privately. Glinda watched her nieces and daughter as they departed for the kitchen, shaking her head slightly as if she felt sorry for her husband.
"Are you sure it's wise to let Tali go in there with the others? I know she wouldn't do anything wrong on purpose, but she's sure to get underfoot."
"I have no doubt," Elphaba said, smiling at how carefully Glinda had chosen her words. "But you try telling her she can't do something when both of her sisters are. Tali may only be five, but I don't think she can get much more headstrong. And what can I say? She comes by it honestly."
"She does." Glinda couldn't keep the laughter out of her voice. "They all seem to be doing fine, though. How are you, really? Are things going well at the castle?"
"As well as they can be. I still get very homesick, but the duties of the monarchy aren't that much different than what I did for my job here in the city. The children are doing well with their lessons. Tali started her schooling since we left. They don't care much for the tutor, but Fiyero and I decided to keep the girls out of the public eye when we can. Graiya and Stavna will both be off to university soon enough. It's nice to have them there at the palace with us for now."
Glinda smiled, but her eyes seemed sad. "They grow up so fast. Olive will be thirteen before long. I look at her and have no idea where the time went. Did you know she wants to be a doctor? I didn't think a woman could even do that."
Elphaba did not volunteer the fact that she had known about Olive's intentions to become a physician for at least a year. "Of course she can do that if she wants to. She's a very smart girl. She studies hard. She'll do fine."
Glinda sighed, staring down at her hands in her lap. "I'm sure. I don't think she ever has trouble with her lessons. A lot like... Well, never mind. I'm sure Travion will have dinner ready soon enough. You're hungry after your journey, aren't you?"
"Glinda, don't change the subject, please. You were going to say she's a lot like me, weren't you?"
Glinda nodded briefly but said nothing.
"Something has gone wrong between you two," Elphaba whispered. "I saw the way Olive looked at you earlier. Tell me what's wrong. Please?"
Elphaba waited patiently for a reply, giving Glinda time to think of exactly the right way to explain the situation.
"Oh, Elphie.... Since you left, Olive has been so... difficult. At first it wasn't that bad. She was sad, and lonely, but we all were and I thought she'd start feeling better. Then I started noticing her grades were dropping. I asked her why, but she wouldn't talk to me. Almost anything I say to her these days makes her cross. She fights me at every turn, and goes to her father instead. You know how she's always been Papa's little girl. The other day, Travion told me that... that Olive said she hates it here. That she hates me, and she wants... She wants to go to the castle and live with you."
Glinda began to weep openly, but for a moment Elphaba was too startled to even comfort her friend.
"What?" cried Elphaba. "Where did that come from? I know she loves me-- I love her too. But what would make her want to do a thing like that?"
"I don't know!" Glinda nearly shouted through her tears. Once she had composed herself, she continued. "I know Olive and I have never been close. I've always made the choice not to lavish her with too much attention, because I'm smart enough to know that's what turned me into such a spoiled brat. Olive has never been like me. It used to make me sad, I almost resented her for it. I know how wrong that is. I wanted her to turn out differently, and then held it against her when she did. I should have realized she was starving for my attention... For my affection. Now she hates me, and it's too late. All she wants is you!"
Elphaba chose to ignore Glinda's last words and instead focused on what was really making her best friend so upset. "Olive doesn't hate you," Elphaba whispered, moving to the chair nearest Glinda, drawing her into a hug. "She just doesn't know how to ask you for what she needs. She's probably afraid you'll say no or be too busy. She loves you very much, or she wouldn't be so hurt. What she's afraid of is that you don't love her."
Glinda shifted her position so she could look Elphaba in the eye, her expression startled. "What? Of course I do."
"I know you do, but Olive has no way of being sure of that. All she knows is that you two hardly talk, and that you aren't comfortable giving her the affection she needs. What does Travion say about Olive's request to come live at the castle?"
"Oh... At first he thought Olive was extremely lonely, and needed time to get over your moving away. He started spending every moment he could with her, and for a little while she seemed better. Lately she's back to insisting she wants to leave. She adores Travion. She must be miserable to even think of leaving him. I've thought and thought about what exactly I might have said to make her feel this way. But I don't know."
"I don't think it's one thing you've said," Elphaba volunteered quietly. "I think it's everything. She's growing up, and all the change happening right now makes it that much worse. She loves you very much... But I think she does need time away from here. Not to punish you, or for me to even temporarily take your place as Olive's mother. This isn't about us, it's about her. She needs time to sort out some things. And maybe while she's gone you can think about how you might start treating her differently. Telling her you love her won't spoil her, Glinda. It's what Olive really wants. To hear you say it, and show her how much you care. She's only turning to me because she knows I already know how."
"You're such a better mother than I am, Elphie. You make it sound like all of this is so easy to figure out. I want Olive to be happy, to start feeling better. She's been so angry, and so sad. If going to live with you is what she needs to start acting like herself again, I want... I want you to take her."
Elphaba frowned. "Glinda, please don't say it like that. I wouldn't be 'taking her.' She will come home. And soon, I think. If you don't want her to leave all you have to say is no."
"Oh, and make her hate me more? I don't think so. She's such a good girl, so gentle. She gets that from her father. Goodness knows she didn't get it from me."
"Glinda, that isn't a fair thing to say! When you met me you were still very self-absorbed. But you've grown up, matured into a person that cares a lot about other people. You care about me, and you know how to tell me and show me that. Now all you have to do is work on being able to let Olive see the same side of you."
Rather than bringing comfort, Elphaba's words made Glinda agitated again. "I never meant to fail her this way! She deserves a better mother than I can be."
Before Elphaba could reply, Olive emerged from the kitchen to announce that dinner was in the oven and would be ready in an hour or so. The child frowned and approached her mother when she saw Glinda's expression.
"Mama? What's the matter?"
Olive sounded frightened, but Glinda waved away her concern, which had become a habit after all these years.
"Nothing. Just go back into the kitchen with your father. I'll be fine, it's not for you to worry about, dear."
Olive scowled, seeming most offended by being dismissed with the term dear, a word her mother used with visitors she didn't even like and wanted to get rid of as politely as possible. "Fine, don't tell me, then," the girl muttered as she walked away.
Once Glinda was calm enough to listen, Elphaba sighed and spoke as gently as possible. "Glinda, Olive is twelve, not two. Telling her nothing is wrong when you're clearly upset doesn't work anymore. Maybe if you told her you don't want her to go, she wouldn't want to leave. Have you thought of that?"
"Yes, I have," Glinda said in a small voice. "I've almost said that to her, several times. But each time I decided she wouldn't care if I wanted her here or not."
Elphaba spoke patiently, hoping Glinda was really listening. "That's exactly what Olive wants, don't you see? For you to tell her you care about whether or not she's part of your life. She's always resented your job, because she thinks it's more important to you than she is."
"I know." Glinda's voice was weak. "I never meant to make her believe that. I've always been so unsure of what to say to her, what kind of things we might do together because she's so different from me. I was so happy when she was born. I know people were surprised... I would guess no one expected me to become a mother. It felt so different, so special. But before long, I mostly felt..."
"Frightened?" Elphaba asked this as gently as she could, but Glinda's eyes still filled with guilt as she nodded and went on speaking.
"You have to understand, I've never been sorry I had my daughter. I have just been so unsure of what to do. All I knew was that I wanted to keep her from turning out like me. I have succeeded.... and we don't even know each other."
"So you start changing that," Elphaba said firmly. "Talk to her, tell her things about your job, or anything you want. She wants to be included, to know she's important enough to tell things to. She's a sweet, gentle girl. And she's longing to have you really be her mother."
"I can try, Elphie. I should go find her. I'd suppose she's in the kitchen with Travion."
"No, actually. I saw her go upstairs after she left us."
"Thank you." Glinda hesitated before going to Olive's room, trying to think through what she could say to her daughter that wouldn't take an entire afternoon of discussion. In the end, she decided to plan only the first couple of things she would say, and let Olive lead the rest of the conversation along. It was what she had seen Elphaba do with her children often enough, and Glinda knew her friend was far wiser about these things than she was.
Glinda's knock at Olive's bedroom door went unanswered, even when the knock was repeated and Glinda called out her daughter's name gently. As a last resort, Glinda tried the door and found it unlocked. She entered quietly, not calling out Olive's name a second time.
The girl lay curled up on her bed in a fetal position, face pressed against the pillow, her shoulders and back shaking as she cried. Glinda approached and sat down carefully on the bed, reaching out to rest one tentative hand on her daughter's shoulder. Olive tensed immediately at the touch and rolled onto her back to face her mother, wiping tears from her eyes.
"What do you want?" Olive's eyes flashed with anger, but Glinda could see the hurt as well, and this stopped her from chiding her daughter for the way she had spoken.
"I'm sorry for the way I spoke to you before," Glinda said quickly, both because she feared her daughter had little patience to listen to her, and because she was unaccustomed to offering her child any apologies.
Olive was so surprised that it brought her tears to a halt instantly. "You are?"
"Yes. I should have told you what was wrong. Sometimes I forget that you aren't a little girl anymore."
"Sometimes I wish I were." Olive's chin quivered, but her voice was steady. "What were you talking about? I could tell I came in at the wrong time."
"I was explaining to Aunt Elphie about how unhappy you've been, and that you want to leave here to go stay with her."
"I was afraid Papa would tell you I said that. I'm sorry I made you so upset, Mama. I didn't think you'd care a lot if I left here for a while."
"I know it's selfish, but I don't want you to go. I've been afraid to tell you that because I thought it would make you angry."
"Why would I be angry because you want me around? That's silly, Mama."
Glinda couldn't suppress a small chuckle at Olive's candor. "I suppose it is. I want you to know that I do wish you'd stay here. You want to go because you've been so angry at me, right?"
"Sort of. I feel bad, Mama. I feel bad all the time. I want to go stay there for a while. Then I will feel better. Papa understands what I mean. Please try to understand, Mama. I don't want to go because I hate you. I get angry when you work so much, and I wish we knew each other better. But I don't hate you. Will you let me go, Mama? Please."
While Glinda was relieved to hear that Olive didn't think as lowly of her as she'd feared, the earnest request from her child to be allowed to leave home made her frown. Glinda's reaction was to stiffen, all the warmth leaving her voice as well.
"If it's really what you want, of course," Glinda said as if she were speaking to someone she knew her opinion mattered to not at all. Olive knew her mother just well enough to realize she was acting like this because she was hurt.
"I'll come home, Mama. I promise. Please don't be mad. I only want to feel better. Papa said it would be okay with him."
"Of course he did!" Glinda cried, getting up from the bed and beginning to pace angrily. "He'd give you anything you want! You think I don't know that's the reason why you want to spend all your time with him and not me? He spoils you."
Olive was a little afraid of her mother's anger, but she sat up on the bed and looked Glinda in the eye. "Sometimes he does," Olive conceded. "But in the last few months, the time we spend together isn't usually much fun. You know I usually just go into his office. Has Papa told you how we spend our time in there?"
Something in Olive's tone made Glinda pause in her pacing, her brow creasing with worry. "No... what is it?"
"He lets me sit with him and cry. I get so... overwhelmed by things. I miss Aunt Elphie and everyone so much. I know I've been taking it out on you because I'm unhappy, and that makes me cry too. I know I should have talked to you, Mama. But... We've never talked about things like this before. I didn't know how to start. It doesn't feel as strange as I thought it would. It feels kind of... nice."
"It does," Glinda whispered, a brief smile coming to her face. It faded as she went on. "I'm sorry you've been so unhappy, Olive." Glinda walked back to her daughter's bedside and knelt in front of her. She hesitated a moment, took Olive's hands in hers, then leaned forward to kiss her forehead. A surprised smile lit Olive's face.
"Why don't you go downstairs and ask Aunt Elphie how she'd really feel about having another person staying at the castle for a while?"
Olive's smile widened, making the dimples in her cheeks bloom instantly. Her brown eyes twinkled. "Really?!" she cried, resisting the urge to throw her arms around her mother.
"Yes, darling. I know you'll be home soon enough. It will do you good. Go on, now. If she says yes, I can help you start packing."
"Oh, thank you, Mama!" Now Olive could no longer resist hugging her mother. "Thank you so much. I love you, Mama."
"I love you, too." Olive and Glinda had very rarely exchanged these words, but there was no awkwardness or discomfort in either of their voices. After a moment, Olive drew back from their embrace and got up from the bed to go downstairs. Glinda watched her child as she went. She felt so happy, even while already beginning to miss her. For almost the first time in just short of thirteen years, Glinda felt like she was a good mother.