So yeah, I'm on holiday, recovering after a 44 hour plane flight (the snow delayed us) and now have limited and *slow* internet access (the horror!). So reviews and review replies will be scarce.
But still, the long plane flight did give me a chance to write this. Which I am fairly proud of. As you can see I still can't get away from my love of exploring underplayed characters.
This is musicalverse as will soon become obvious (as it blatantly contradicts the book a lot) but I have stolen a couple of things from the book.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
She remembered dancing. She had turned sixteen with a flourish, flowing red curls cascading down her back, dark eyes that always sparkled and a happy demeanour that was loved by everyone.
The summer before everything changed was an endless party with a new ball gown every night and no shortage of suitors. It was a summer of giggles and flirting and stolen kisses behind the rosebushes on the perfectly manicured lawns.
Sophelia said it was improper, of course, but what did Sophelia know? The soon to be wife of the Governor of Munchkinland, who spent far too much time becoming well educated and debating politics, would never know the simple joys of being young and free like her sister did. The younger sister, free from a betrothal to a frightful bore five years her senior, knew she had a perfect life and she made the most of it.
But nothing can last forever and with the autumn came the loss. Days after Sophelia's eighteenth birthday and mere weeks before her wedding a bout of pox spread the neighbourhood. They all caught it but none as badly as Sophelia. When it was all over she was not left dead, for that would have been a mercy, but blind, horribly scarred and half mad.
Pulled away from society, Munchkinland's elite mourned the loss of such a good, charming girl, but it was clear she could no longer become the Governor's bride. The family, desperate to cling onto the power such a union could bring, offered their second daughter instead.
She remembered the moment she was told of this arrangement. It felt like the whole world had clamped around her and become her prison. Everything she'd wanted, everything she'd hoped for, had been whisked away from her leaving only misery. She had protested of course. She had protested loudly and fiercely for the longest time but nothing changed. She was getting married to the most boring man in Oz and as soon as she turned eighteen because Frexspar was already nearly twenty-five.
She tried to make the best out of the time she had left, but the world had lost its sparkle. No longer was she the unclaimed beauty, the central attraction of every ballroom, but a girl on the sidelines who could only radiate sorrow.
At home she was forced to attend strict lessons on how to be the perfect wife and gentle lady to the Governor the way her sister had been but she had never wanted to be. Sophelia was given her own nurse and shut, out of sight, in her own quarters. Furious at being left to do all Sophelia should have done her sister ignored her spitefully. Until one night she started screaming, her pained cries piercing the air, terrified of demons only she could hear. She rushed to her side, gazing at her sister's unseeing eyes, calming her down. She sung her to sleep like Sophelia had done for her so many times before, but would never do again, and promised her she'd try and take her place. If only for her.
It was even worse than she had expected. Endless days caged up inside the mansion with nothing to do, nowhere to roam. She hated the house with its gloomy staircases and silent servants yet it was where she was expected to spend the rest of her life.
And Frex! He wasn't even interesting enough to hate! He adored her – that was something – but it was not in the full, passionate way her suitors had before. His touch did not send shivers up her spine. His kiss did not make her heart rush. But now he was the only company she had, yet she cared nothing for his talk of politics and Ozmas and the welfare of Munchkin peasants. Isolated, trapped and so terribly lonely she turned to the only comfort she knew. Night and day she drunk until she did not have to think, or remember, or escape the safety of her own head.
But even the alcohol was unable to subdue the pain that hit her the spring before her second anniversary. Sophelia died, and while she had barely seen her sister since her marriage and even then was not sure she had recognised her, the time that they had spent together were still treasured memories – a faint connection to her past life – and now she was gone. She hadn't realised she could feel any more alone.
So she clung on tighter to Frex. Bore or not she had no one else left. But he frequently travelled and the more attention she paid him the more he realised he had nothing in common with his pretty young wife, so he distanced himself from her, content to love her from a distance.
She, however, was not. She needed close love and affection and here she was left to wither and die. She could not take it any longer. She could not let that happen. She gazed idly out the window at the lake near the mansion. Water, she decided, would be a nice way to die. To simply dive in and never surface. She imagined melting as it touched her flesh, becoming at one with the cool liquid, wild, beautiful and free.
She slipped out of the house, leaving no note of absence, she'd simply disappear. She walked slowly towards the waterfront observing, for the last time, the picturesque world which she hated. Reaching the lake, she slipped off her shoes and then her dress, savouring the way the wind caressed her bare skin. She then pulled her hair out of its tight bun letting the fiery locks burn, untamed, for the first time in years. Telling herself she was not afraid she gingerly dipped her toe into the cool water.
Suddenly, she was aware that she was being watched. She turned sharply around to see the travelling salesman that had stopped by the mansion the day before. He was not bad looking – not stunning the way some of her suitors had been – but oddly attractive in a very normal way. But this was not the first thing she noticed about him.
The first thing she noticed was the way he looked at her. She could not remember the last time she had been looked at like that, certainly never by Frex or since the time in which they had been married. Despite the fact she knew she was beautiful men stayed away from her and now only gave her looks of polite formality.
There was nothing politely formal about the way this man looked at her now. She was not too estranged from human affection even now to mistake the look of lust in his eyes. It was an entirely inappropriate way to look at the Governor's wife, even in her undressed state, and she revelled in it. For the first time in far too many years she felt wanted. It was exhilarating.
She smiled at him in a way that was far from the modest, embarrassed thing that was appropriate in the situation and a little more than just charming. She was pleased to see it only encouraged his eyes to roam her body.
Nothing happened. Not that day. She didn't let him know he'd saved her life. Her eyes never leaving his she simply put her dress back on, although she let her hair run free, and followed him back to his caravan, enquiring how long he was staying in the village.
She visited him every day the following week. She adored Oscar's (and odd but appealing name, she decided) attention, she was thrilled by his tales of other worlds (and wished so hard for the freedom to see them too) and his potions made her happier than she could ever remember. But she wanted more. She had not forgotten the thrill of a stolen kiss not the excitement and anticipation she had felt when he had seen her undressed.
She took her opportunity the day before Oscar was due to leave the village. Knowing Frex would be out for his annual tour of the provinces, before she left Oscar she kissed him hard on the lips and bade him to visit the mansion that night, and to bring some of that green elixir that she was most dreadfully addicted to.
He did as he was told and there she spent the most wonderful night of her life. Just for that moment she was no longer sad or lonely. Instead she was the lively, happy, young woman she should have been. But in the morning Frex returned and Oscar was gone. She never saw him again. All she had left of that night was a small green bottle.
That and the little life now growing inside her.
Frex never suspected her. She almost wished he would. They hadn't copulated for weeks and the pregnancy had coincided exactly with when he was away. Did he really think her so unattractive that no other men would consider being with her? Did he really think himself so attractive and interesting that she would always remain faithful to him?
The child was born on the coldest day of winter. Later she thought it was an apt day given the world's reaction to her. Through the haze of pain and exhaustion she could hear Frex and the midwife's screams. Panicked (had she been found out?) she called out, asking what was wrong, but one glance at her daughter told her the answer. The girl was alive and healthy and undoubtedly green.
She had never seen Frex so angry. Normally most stern and boring, but mild tempered, he seemed to be furious with this child just because she was different. It struck her as unfair especially as he never blamed her dispite, as well as all other things, she was pretty sure even the greenness was her own fault rather than the child's. She tried to care, she really did, but she was more relieved that the anger wasn't directed at her. She wondered sometimes if the child knew of her father's hatred and her mother's indifference towards her for she was always a sombre child who never cried and always looked like she was deep in thought.
The girl, reluctantly named Elphaba after Frex decided that as Governor he could probably not abandon his child, reminded her not of herself, or even Oscar, but hauntingly of Sophelia. Maybe this should have endeared her to her daughter but still she could only see her as another burden on her miserable life.
If only the child was one who wanted affection from her! Maybe then she would have been easier to love. But she was nearly a year old when she first smiled and even then it wasn't for another human being. A dog had managed to make its way into the garden and the girl had timidly walked up to it and patted it. It turned and barked at her, the child looked horrified, but then it licked her and she giggled. The dog came into the garden often from then on and stayed with the child until Frex saw it and chased it away. The mother thought it was oddly fitting that the little misfit had found her only friend in an animal. She told herself she was not jealous.
But jealous or not the sense of abandonment was most definitely settling in her again. Without any other adequate distractions she found herself thinking about Oscar. Had he ever loved her? Did he ever think of her? Could he even remember her?
Fingering the little green bottle that he had left her one day she became sure of the answer. No! He had never wanted her for anything more than her body, she was just too stupid to realise, and now he had left her in even more of a mess than she had started with. Screaming in pain and anger she threw the bottle across the room startling the little girl who sat thinking quietly in the corner.
"Mama!" she cried, her first words, she grabbed the green bottle, miraculously not broken and raced towards her a ridiculously adult look of concern in her features. So much like Sophelia's. At first she did not know what to do with the nervous child in her arms but then some barrier inside her broke and everything clicked. Here was the one person who would love her unconditionally even if she did not deserve it. Weeping she scooped her daughter up into her embrace.
"I love you too little Elphaba, I do, I do!"
The child looked more bewildered than anything, even more of a stranger to affection than her mother, and offered the little green bottle back to her. But the mother only smiled, "No, no dear, you keep it. He's more yours than he ever was mine." And she resolved to give the girl the love and attention she had been deprived of, because somewhere inside her she knew they didn't have much time left.
She was sure Frex was trying to punish her. Whether it was for having a green baby, or paying attention to Elphaba, or maybe he'd secretly found out he had cheated on her, she did not know but the milk flowers made her feel deadly ill – if having another child on the way was not already bad enough. But still she chewed them, not because she was scared of Frex, she told herself, and most certainly not because she didn't care enough about her life anymore to protest, but for her new child. Because it was bad enough for one child to have green skin and she did not want to inflict it on another.
That lazy summer day, seven months into her pregnancy, came as a shock to them all. No one was expecting the baby to come so early least of all, she suspected, the child itself. She was sure those foul milk flowers were in some way to blame.
She knew something was wrong from before the child even came out. The pain was too great, her movements too desperate and forceful, and it was so excruciatingly exhausting that it was all she could do not to slip into unconsciousness. No, not unconsciousness, but an impenetrable blackness that she was sure she'd have no chance of ever returning from.
Finally, weaker than ever, she succeeded. The baby was a tiny thing with her little legs tangled in a way that she was sure was not natural but Frex only had eyes for the girl's skin. A normal rosy pink. He took her gently off the midwife, smiling, oblivious to anything else. He did not see the little green head poking through the door, despite the fact he'd forbidden her to even come near the room, nor did he notice his wife dying on the bed.
She felt weak and tired, so, so tired. She knew what was going to happen and welcomed it. It would be so nice to see Sophelia, to be free again.
But she couldn't go, not quite yet, she had one last thing to do in this world. She turned to her green daughter, her horrified expression showing that she was the only one who realised what was happening to her mother, and silently wished the girl the best for the harsh world that faced her.
Then, unnoticed by the joyful crowd, she slipped away. Free from her prison and duties and protocols. Ready to dance again.