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My beautiful caterpillar
Elphaba sat on the wooden floor, staring into her looking glass. It was a muddled morning. The dew hung on leaves, and the air was damp. The grass was coated with fresh droplets that just waited to spin off. Elphaba kept inside, so as to avoid all of the water. It was a fear the young girl had never overcome.
So, to take her mind off of the wet substance, she looked inside the glass, watching. Her reflection stared back at her: the green skin, the pointy features, the jagged, murderous teeth; they all stared back at her and cut her heart. Why was she different?
She was transfixed, and didn't notice her father slip in. He watched her stare for a minute before clearing his throat. Elphaba didn't react, she just sat and stared. He cleared his throat again, only louder.
Elphaba, seeing the need to oblige, turned her head slowly, and fixed her serious gaze onto him. "Yes?"
Frex blinked. "Why is Nessa still asleep?" he asked.
"She's eight, Frex, she needs more rest," Elphaba responded coolly, turning back to the glass. "And, I needed to be alone." She once again examined herself, scanning her reflection.
"What do you see?" Frex asked, staring as well.
"Green skin and a lot of it," Elphaba answered back.
"I thought you hated looking at yourself," Frex answered, kneeling down. "Sometimes it seemed as if you were looking into another world."
Elphaba would not answer to this, instead she replied, "One needs to get used to their appearance."
Her words shook him, but he tried not to make it obvious. Instead, he peered into it with her; examining the glossy surface. Elphaba started in surprise and looked at him, widening her eyes. "What are you doing?"
"Looking with you."
"You must be terrified," she said sternly, holding her chin up high, and grinding her teeth, "petrified even."
"No, I'm not." Frex brushed her hair out of her face.
Elphaba bared her teeth and scooted away. "Since when do you give a care about me?" She scowled, scrambling up and stamping her foot. "Since when?"
Frex bowed his head and grabbed her arm. He gently guided his daughter into his lap, and turned her toward the glass again. Elphaba struggled and growled with rage, but he held her fast and forced her to look.
"Fabala, listen to me," he insisted, getting her to sit still.
"Why should I?" she questioned, fiercely, but sat calmly. "All you ever do is lie!"
"No!" he snapped.
"Frex, I'm different, and I'm never going to change! You hate me! Mother was ashamed me! Shell cares not! Nessa—"
"Don't bring Nessarose into this."
"Why not? Because she's your daughter? Well I am too! In case you haven't noticed, Father!" Elphaba struggled again. "All my life I had to deal with people giving me looks! Looks of fear, curiosity, and shame, Father! Shame! Mostly from you!" She wriggled out of his grasp, stumbled to the far corner, sat down and held her head in her hands. "Frex, why am I different?"
Frex was once again startled by the depth of Elphaba's words. His daughter had never been one to speak out like this; she had never been one to express her feelings about her appearance. He found this behavior odd and was feeling apprehensive about taking the conversation further, so as to avoid him saying something unconventional and stupid. He was about to slip out of the room once more, leaving her question hanging, when he heard her take a deep shuddering breath and begin to sob.
Frex was confused and unsure of what to do. Elphaba had never cried before; not as a baby, not as a toddler, never. And now here she sat before him, ten years old and sobbing. He just sat dumb-struck, unmoving, until she began to yell.
He rushed over, and placed his hand on her arm. She looked up quickly. "Frex, the tears! They burn!" She buried her head in her lap, and wiped it across her blue skirt.
"Fabala, what is the matter?"
Elphaba didn't answer; she just kept her head bowed and took another heaving breath. Sighing, Frex picked up the despaired child and carried her to the glass again, setting her in his lap once more.
"Elphaba listen to me," Frex whispered. "Look into the glass."
Elphaba lifted her head, her cheeks stained with burning tears. He wiped his fingers gently across them and pointed to the shimmering reflector. Once again Elphaba was faced with the pain of staring at herself. It hurt more than her tears.
Frex left her there once more, and strode over to the open window. He cupped in his hands, a caterpillar, and picked it up, carrying it over to Elphaba, who sat as still as stone.
"See this caterpillar here?" he asked.
She nodded. "Yes, it's as ugly as me," she said, not looking at him.
"Yes, it may be—"
"Oh yes, you're very encouraging."
Frex ignored her snide comment. "—But one day it will grow up and evolve into a beautiful butterfly." He walked back to the window and placed the caterpillar back on the windowsill.
"What is your implication?" she droned.
"That one day you will blossom into a beautiful young woman, like a caterpillar does." He sat beside her once more.
"Really? That sounds so cliché…"
"Cliché, or not, I believe it."
"Really?" Elphaba asked, looking into Frex's eyes.
"Yes, one day you'll grow up, have a family, and be admired, Elphie." He hugged her, deciding it was best for the moment.
Elphaba stiffened instantly, and pushed him away. "Whatever you say, Father." Then, a smile crept across her flushed green lips, taking the sting out of her words. "I'll go awake Nessarose now."
Frex smiled, and nodded, getting up to prepare the morning tea.
Elphaba walked down the hall, out of earshot, and smiled once more, deviously. "Definitely cliché."