It should have been so easy to sleep. The room was so quiet, just the sound of the breeze blowing through the tall grass outside. The air was so warm, and worse than that, humid. It felt like a warm bath. It made her feel drowsy and lazy, but sleep wouldn't come. She had been put on strict bed rest for this pregnancy, a vain attempt to prevent this child from being as damaged as his older sisters. She'd poured out her wine and didn't touch the pinlobble leaves. Frex blamed himself for Elphaba. She blamed the wine and leaves for Nessarose. This child would be whole and white and flawless. Strong and healthy and wonderfully normal.
She told herself that the bed rest was neccesary for the baby, but it was dull, especially when she couldn't drift off to sleep.
She scanned the room, empty except for Elphaba, little green grasshopper of a girl, perched on a chair beside the window, reading. She was playing with her hair absentmindedly, chewing on a strand that had freed itself from one of her braids. She was completely absorbed in the book that sat open in her lap, with far more concentration than was appropriate for an eight year old. Lurline, could nothing about that child be normal?
Melena shook her head, reminding herself that many mother's would probably be happy to have such a calm child, particularly two of them. Both of her girls were quiet, calm. Not playful, not mischievous. Two emotionally stunted little adults, really. Calm and focused, except for the occasional temper tantrum from Nessarose. "Why aren't you outside, Elphaba?"
The little thing jumps, twisting in her seat. "What, Mama?"
"What are you doing, Elphie?" Frex called their older girl Fabala, but Melena hated that nickname. "Why aren't you playing with your sister?"
She found a bit of lint or something on her navy dress, picking at it. "Papa took her down to the Village to see the Quadlings, to talk to them."
"So why didn't you go with them?"
"It's raining," she said, shrugging as if she merely didn't want to get wet, and not as if the rain water would strip the skin from her bones and melt her flesh. Elphaba didn't seem phased by any of it, but how could she be? She knew nothing else... and when everything is so damn weird, how can anything be?
She beckoned the girl closer, and when she came, Melena could more clearly see the cover of the book. She turned her nose up. "What in the world are you reading?"
"It was Nanny's..."
Melena took the book with a huff, putting it in the shelf in her bedside table. "Oh, I told the old bat to keep her 'fine literature' up where you girls wouldn't find it."
Elphaba sat on the bed, beside Melena, but she might as well have been miles away- she wasn't soft, she didn't cuddle. "Don't be cross with her Mama, I didn't understand much of it anyway."
"Then why did you keep reading it?"
"I might've understood it eventually," the girl said with such a straight expression that her mother laughed.
"Let's hope not, men are more trouble than they're worth." She pulled herself all the way up. "Elphaba, all there is to understand is that you can't ever put your faith in one. Not to do the right thing, not for your safety, not for anyone's happiness. You'll only be disappointed. There are some good ones, but they're so few and far between. And even then, they leave. They're taken. Or they die. I don't want you to ever live or die for a man. You'll only be disappointed."
"Yes, Mama," she said, she said, nodding, leaning up to press a kiss against Melena's cheek, finding her one doll, and wandering off.
Melena died a few weeks later, finally birthing her perfect, whole son. The boy was rambunctious and wild and full of laughter. She never even got to hold him. She'd been largely inconsequential as a mother, but Elphaba took that conversation with her- her mother's words when the Wizard proved himself evil, when she had to sell herself to men for her own survival. When she finally was nearly happy, but he died anyway.