See this post for disclaimer info.
The Emerald City is once more excited. Energy runs high, the air practically alight with it.
As per usual, all I can do is brood.
It's as though some part of me is trapped in the past, trapped here in the central heart of Oz where I fought beside the teenage selves of my beloved parents. Like a shadow play of puppets behind taut cloth, I see the events of that night play out as though only an observer.
Rubbing my eyes and sighing heavily, I press my body deeper into my hidey hole and force away the memories that seem more vivid than what is presently happening around me. Twenty years ago this very night, the longest dark of the year, I helped fight back the evil that was killing Oz from the inside out. I helped save my mothers, the people I adore most, from the hellish cycle they were trapped in.
They are older women now, stately and graceful and completely at peace with all they have accomplished and who they have become. Since the summer solstice when I finally made the time jump, they have hovered over me, overly protective and desperately trying to explain a lifetime of secrets my journey made necessary.
Frankly, they're driving me nuts.
Oh, they mean well, but no one can understand how disassociated I feel here, in the time where I'm supposed to be. Even the twins can't cheer me and that's unusual right there.
As though conjured by my brooding thoughts, Mimi appears below me, her black hair and dark gown striking against the snow. In this grey light, there is no color. Even my own hands look grey, their rich coloring shadowed away. Here, in the Emerald City, the loss of color is ironic to say the least.
How they had once hated my Mimi, terrified by her unique color and her passion for saving the Animals. Driven into a frenzy by the propaganda of the Wizard and his power-mad cronies, she was destined to be buried under by virtue of the sheer numbers that were led to despise her.
One woman against an entire society.
Thank goodness for Mama.
Already a public figure in Oz, Mama was a presence that the masses would listen to. Her voice of reason, coupled with the exposure of the corruption, calmed Oz enough to give Mimi and Mama a chance.
That chance ushered in a new era for Oz, one of relative peace and prosperity, even if Mimi's original goal of saving the Animals had been doomed from the start.
For no one has ever been able to stop the slow decline of our intelligent, articulate Animal brethren.
Many of my friends over my life have been Animals: Chackle, Farkell, Hurgle, Chistery and his clan, and of course, my beloved little brother. Even in my funk, I cannot stop a small smirk at the memory of that cheeky Monkey sneaking in on the coat-tails of my spell through time. Truthfully, I was ecstatic to have Janen along; a steady, familiar presence to help keep me grounded in what needed to be done.
Even if he did get me in real trouble with the Flying Monkeys.
In truth, they were only angry because they were worried and I have long since been forgiven the transgression that wasn't even mine. Though, while ostracized from the clan, it was a lonely time. Not that they were ever very far away. Even here on my high, secretive perch, I know they watch out for me. I can almost feel their protective gazes even now.
For now, I am left to my solitude. Even Mimi retreats from the cold, though not before glancing up as though she knows I'm here. I'm still not ready to completely open up, though I think that time is coming, as though this twentieth anniversary of my trip through time is finally bringing me some sort of peace.
A jerk on the massive curtain beside me makes me want to curse. Right now I really want to be alone and that obviously isn't going to happen. When a heavily gloved hand hooks over my perch, I realize that I've debated too long and I recoil in surprise as a familiar face joins the attending hand.
"Chill, Witchling," Amlie laughs quietly and, in a spectacular feat of gracefulness and strength, heaves herself onto my platform. In the last six months, with stealth and deferential persistence, she has become to me what Kayen has been to Mimi all of these long years. That includes the silly nickname.
To my consternation and amusement, she settles herself on the steel platform, booted feet dangling, eyes cast over the city. Glancing down the great distance to the green-veined marble below, I cock an eyebrow at Amlie, who smirks. "That's quite a climb," I comment and her smirk deepens. The admiration is not feigned, for the curtain she just climbed is many horse-strides wide as it is tall, the first of dozens such curtains that keep back the winter cold from the palace. The pair of doors here that I destroyed twenty years ago have never been replaced, a subtle reminder to what the Wizard nearly reduced us to. Here, in the cradle of the massive upper hinge, frozen in time where it had once held those forbidding doors closed to the world, is my sanctuary.
"Kayen has known about this favorite spot of yours since you were a child."
That's just like Kay actually, to keep an eye out on me without being suffocating about it. Mama and Mimi aren't usually so overbearing with me, but the strain of the last six months has been hard on all of us.
"We occasionally climb the curtains as a challenge," Amlie continues, her night-darkened blue eyes finally flickering over, "though the cold and this winter garb add an interesting dimension."
Despite myself, I have to smile and then tuck my body up even closer in mute invitation to stay. Neither of us is cold here, both dressed in the black bodysuits our taller parents helped perfect years ago, even if the wind can be cold on the cheeks. One of the nice things about being weather sensitive the way I am, is that I can shoo away the bitter wind to save my face from being frozen. Amlie takes advantage of that too and scoots over until she is nearly sitting on my toes, drawn close to my rear.
"I remember you were the first stranger to approach Mimi," I muse to myself as much to her, staring intently at the very spot where it happened all that time ago.
"I remember that she was different," Amlie matches my quiet tone. "But there was something about her that wasn't at all scary. The crowd was way scarier and I didn't like that, so I wanted to make sure that the green lady wasn't bad like they thought she was." This time her smile is full and warm, the dimples making me grin as I can see her toddler self lingering in the adult face. "Turns out I was right. I've liked being friends with your family all this time."
She had been a fixture in my young life, before I took on the all-consuming task of saving my parents back in time. That makes me think, looking sharply into her blue eyes, several shades darker than my own. "You knew, didn't you?"
Painful regret and something a little sheepish flashes across her face as Amlie nods and looks at her hands. "Kay told me enough that I knew that I had to let you complete your task alone." This time, something new dances in the expressive eyes making an answering something new and foreign and terrifyingly welcome dance low in my guts. "And I did, even though it broke my heart, Delia."
Oz only knows where the impulse comes from, but I slide out a leg, reaching out to hook a hand around her neck and pull her into my smaller body. It's awkward, the empty metal hinge only a bit wider than our bodies, but I relish the press of her body into mine. "Then we have some time to make up, Amlie," I whisper into the black hood that covers her striking sunrise red hair.
Time passes where we sit in a companionable quiet, looking over the city as the solstice grows heavier and heavier around us. We're sitting differently now, Amlie having coaxed me to unfurl my great storm wings and hover so that she could slide into my spot and I had a lap to fill with my slighter frame. Some childish part of me enjoys the cuddling, but this embrace feels distinctly different in ways that I'm not entirely clear on.
"So, what now, Witchling?" Amlie finally asks, her voice calm and undemanding. "You're going to have a rough time upstaging yourself."
Despite myself, I have to giggle and tilt my head back on her shoulder. "I'll never be able to upstage that one. Nor do I want to!"
Together we laugh, hidden away from the lights and energy of the party building up below us in the courtyard. All kidding aside though, it's a good question and I find myself voicing things that I have never told anyone.
"Mimi was supposed to have been the Eminent Thropp, you know."
"A little, sure. Why?"
"Well, so am I." That gets Amlie's head around, craning her neck back so that she can look at me fully. "My aunt isn't having an easy time of it, now that grandfather has died, and I have all the skills needed. And I'm of age now and my parents are driving me crazy, hovering over me like some sort of china doll and I'm ready to be on my own I think andů"
"Shhh," Amlie soothes me, a gentle finger stopping my rambling mouth. Like a gathered fog bank, the storm wings are arched over us, directly tied to my risen stress and high emotion. "The people of Munchkinland will be lucky to have you. So when do we leave?" My expression must show my confusion and my instinctual protest, because Amlie presses on my lips once more and shakes her head. "I was forced to let you go once, Delia. Never again. I will stand by your side in any and all capacities you wish of me."
Whatever I expected from my first kiss, Amlie's gentle mouth belies it all, both searing and calming me. It feels right, like a next step towards who and what I will become.
"Thank you," I whisper almost soundlessly against her lips, kissing her once more, there beneath the longest night sky and the eve of both my birth and my greatest achievement.
Yes, I do believe that I am ready to move forward and become my own mythweaver once more.