I've been on autopilot, answering questions and telling as much of this incredible story as I can. Keeping secrets started this whole Wizard mess and I don't want to follow in those dangerous footsteps, but I don't like speaking for Elphaba either.
In the corner of my eye, I watch my lover interact with the curious trio of children, unable to stop my artificial society smile from growing fond. The reporters love it, focusing in with their enchantments so that everyone watching the other end of the spells can watch the sweet interactions. As the children melt back into the crowd, my green girls hug and come over to stand sentinel at my shoulders, gripping my hands. Their warmth and love wash over me and I press my face briefly into Elphie's neck as Delia addresses the reporters.
"I know that this has been a wild night, but there are still roles for Oz to play. The government has been shattered and must be rebuilt, the Animals must be protected as the citizens they are and as much damage as possible must be repaired. In the future, things have changed in ways that I wish I could explain, but all of you must figure out on your own. But there is one thing that all of you must do." She's a magnificent speaker, clear, charismatic and intense. "I cannot find out about my role in these events." There's a stir of emotion to her words and she releases my hand to raise her own to the assembly to settle them. "It will take me seven years, the entirety of my young adulthood, to figure this puzzle out, to hone my control of the weather, to figure out how to fool time itself. You all must make these tasks as difficult as possible. No physical descriptions, no hint that my special talents helped stop the tornado, nothing. I really cannot emphasize this enough."
"It seems like an awful lot of trouble," one of the reporters grumbles and Delia's expression goes steely.
"These women are my mothers. They are the most cherished and beloved people in the world to me. I would do anything for them. They are kind and decent and self-sacrificing. They will be a great asset to Oz if given half a chance. Just give them a chance." Reaching into a satchel around her waist I hadn't even noticed, Delia approaches the man who spoke, holding out a thin, floppy book bound in heavy cloth that reminds me of my school notebooks. "I recognize you, Master Karker, even if it took me a minute." The man looks completely flummoxed at the use of what is obviously his name and automatically holds out a hand. "There're notes in here and I'm leaving them with you in charge of executing the material inside." The she grins warmly and he returns the expression. "In less than two decades, you'll get a chance to hand that back to me. Thank you in advance, sir."
Stepping back to stand by my side, I beam at this future child if mine, knowing that I will miss this near-adult version of her. She is someone that I could easily have as a good friend.
"Make good decisions, people of Oz," Delia calls out, again raising her arms. "Your futures depend on it."
Once more, magic stirs the air, wind swirling through the assembly, whirling the clouds above. Obedient to the young sorceress, the clouds scuttle away to reveal the black sky above. Inspired, I glance about the square, noting the many oil lamps and glowing crystals. "Elphie, help me dim the lights."
Startled, my love nods and we focus our wills to the multitude of glows and watch them slowly grow dimmer and dimmer as the crowd murmurs.
A city is never really dark and we lose some integral connection to the world around us because of that. The gathering of people blurs together as darkness closes in.
"People of Oz," I call out in my best speaking voice. "The darkest winter sky."
And for an endless, breathless moment, we, the people of Oz, are one people beneath the glitter of the stars. This is a magic that we all know and all can appreciate, the wheeling dance of our constant companions, the stars in a flawlessly clear sky. As one entity, we soak it deep into our hearts.
"Happy Solstice," a child's voice calls out and slowly the chant is taken up as Elphie leans over to murmur something to Delia.
Very clearly, my daughter's voice says, "snow."
Elphie's will pushes on mine, and she whispers in my ear. "The lights."
Fat, silent snowflakes drift down from the clear sky, glowing in the returned city light. Delighted, the crowd shifts about in the glorious, gentle flurry, their troubles forgotten for these magical moments. "I love you," Elphie murmurs into my hair and I turn to jump on her with a full-body hug. Staggering a bit under my weight, she chuckles and accepts my sloppy kiss.
"I love you too. Will you stay with me forever and ever, Elphaba Thropp?"
"Oh yes, Glinda Upland, I will indeed stay with you forever and ever."
We share the sweetest of kisses on our first Winter Solstice of many.
Slowly, the clouds roll back in to keep the snowfall going naturally before Delia doubles over with an exhausted groan. The sound gets our attention and I settle back to the ground to go to her. There's something hurt in her eyes, something regretful and I can hear the words even before she says them.
"It's time for me to go."
Upset, I'm useless as Elphie speaks with the guardsmen and Delia catches her breath. Even Janen makes himself useful by hopping up, holding the bristly end of the broomstick over his head. In the still-falling snow, I climb onto the broom behind Elphie, clinging tight to her back, listening to the muted sounds of happiness around us. There are even cheers as some notice our departure, stirring the snow into flurries.
The cold night makes me shake, completely baffled how Elphie isn't an icicle where she is completely exposed to the brutal wind of flight. Then I remember calling the protective bubble and bravely peek around the edge of Elphie's concealing body, focusing on the tip of the broomstick. Like a taut slide of silk, the membrane appears, drifting over both of us, shutting out the worst of the wind.
"Thank you, love," Elphie murmurs, shivering reflexively in the lessened cold. "That's far nicer than the open air." Crouching lower over the broom, I feel Elphie urge the thing faster and faster still. Time becomes a blur as we race across the night sky like streaks of lightning. I'm frozen and half-asleep, my legs numb from sitting astride the broom, by the time we slow and begin to spiral downward.
Whimpering at the press of the ground to my frozen feet, I stumble and stand painfully. Propping me up, Elphie is urgently calling out names. I watch silently as emaciated Animals, many of them wounded, trudge out and are introduced to the miraculous hole in the bag. Numbly, they comply and I am horrified by how bad things have really gotten outside of the city.
The mood grows happier as the seemingly endless stream of supplies pours from the bag. The smells of cooking drift through the forest, holding back the crisp winter air. But, eventually, Delia finally steps out, truly looking exhausted now. Wordlessly, she takes the wand from my clutching hands and lifts away the beautiful circlet from Elphie's hair. Janen carries them back while Delia returns our sober, hurting gazes.
Still silent, she wraps her arms around our necks and squeezes almost painfully tight. Together, like one being, we breathe harshly in sync, brought together by the strangest of circumstances.
"I'm really glad that I got to meet you two like this," Delia finally sniffs, leaning away so that we can study one another's night-darkened features. "I'm lucky that I won't get to miss you, y'know? Right on the other side of my trip home is you."
"But we'll sure miss you," Elphie manages to say softly, because my throat aches too much to do it myself.
"It's time!" Janen squeals urgently. "Solstice is passing!"
Even though the pain of this separation, I can feel the energies build. A rough hug from my grown child that will take many years to grow to this extraordinary person is the best I get. "I love you Mama. Take care."
Another rough hug for Elphie and Delia steps away and looks to the sky, waiting for something. Tears roll freely now as I watch mutely, clinging to Elphie's torso, her arm tight around my shoulders.
Power builds and builds, but something isn't working. There is panic growing in Delia's eyes and, suddenly, I know the answer. "Break the emerald! Smash it!"
My shout carries over the rush of noise of magics and weather in tandem. Cringing, Delia nods and pulls out the necklace I've spotted only briefly, drawing it over her head. Stepping back to the rugged cliff face nearby, she grasps a largish stone and I stare at this ending.
In a blinding flash of glorious green light, the magic emerald is destroyed, taking away the young sorceress. In the years to come, I will wonder often what becomes of this exact moment. Does Delia make it back in one piece, exhausted but full of excited stories for her Mimi and me? Does something go wrong?
It's an unnerving prospect at best.
Silence settles over the forest now that Delia is gone. After a respectful moment, a great Rhinoceros approaches and speaks quietly. "Miss Elphaba, did things go well in the Emerald City?"
I fight down hysterical giggles, my body and emotions too raw to be sane at this moment and Elphie squeezes me tightly. "Yes, Hurgle, things went quite well. If anyone cares for a solstice tale, I'll tell you exactly what happened."
And so, our new lives begin.