no place like oz Page 38

“You must have at some point. Everyone has parents.”

“Everyone except fairies,” she said. “I was born from the pool in the center of the maze. Remember that little red flower, floating in the pool?”

“Yes,” I said, vaguely remembering.

“That’s where I came from. The next princess is somewhere in there, biding her time. When the flower is big and full and about to shed its petals, it means she’s close to being born, and I’ll know that it’s time for me to go rejoin Lurline and my people. I’ll go off to find them, and my successor will rise up out of that flower to take my place. Of course, it takes a very long time, and after she’s born she’ll be a baby for a bit—that’s when Oz is most vulnerable. That’s how the Wizard managed to do away with me the first time.”

“How strange,” I said. “But where did he send you? I’ve been wondering.”

“Does it matter?” Ozma asked.

“Why wouldn’t it?”

“Does it matter that you’re from Kansas? You’re here now. The past is gone. Especially in Oz—that’s the way time works. In Oz, it’s always right now.”

I thought about it for a moment. It did matter. I didn’t necessarily like to think about where I was from, and I certainly didn’t want to go back there, but it had made me who I was, just as much as my trip to Oz had made me who I was.

Wherever Ozma had been had made her who she was, too. How could it not have?

And who was she, really? Was she the sweet, charming new friend I’d made—a girl who wanted nothing more than to try on dresses and plan parties—or was she the regal, majestic, fairy princess I’d seen that day in the hedge maze?

Was she the girl who would do anything to be a good ruler to a kingdom she didn’t even really want, or was she so desperate for power that she had banished Glinda to some terrible, faraway place to get her out of the way, just the same way the Wizard, once upon a time, had done to Ozma herself?

It didn’t occur to me that maybe she could be both. All I knew was that I had to find out the truth.

So even though I knew it was risky, I cast a spell. I knew I couldn’t be too obvious this time. Ozma may have looked sweet and innocent, but she was dangerous, too. She was a fairy. If she had done something to Glinda, she might be able to do it to me, too, if I wasn’t careful.

I gave her just the tiniest little nudge. I had been practicing at night, in my room alone, and I was getting better at using the magic. I didn’t have to knock my shoes together anymore; I didn’t even need to feel the tingling in my feet. The magic wasn’t just in the shoes. It was in every bit of my body, and all I had to do was take a tiny little piece of it and send it out into the world to bring me back what I wanted.

There in Ozma’s dressing room, I looked down at my fingertip and saw a little red butterfly sitting on it, glowing and pulsing its jeweled little wings.

Tell me, I told it, without speaking the words aloud. And the butterfly took flight. It fluttered into the air and circled around Ozma’s head in a scattered halo.

“Dorothy?” Ozma said. “Are you okay? You have the strangest look on your face.”

The butterfly landed on her forehead. She didn’t react. She didn’t seem to notice it.

“What are you thinking about?” Ozma asked, looking deep into my eyes. “You look like you’re a million miles away.”

Tell me, I thought. Tell me where Glinda is.

The butterfly crawled across her brow, like it was looking for a way into her mind, and then it disappeared—just evaporated in a tiny puff of red dust. I had lost it.

Ozma didn’t seem to know what had just happened, I don’t think. But her mind was still her own. Her magic was more powerful than she let on.

I knew then, without a doubt, that she was the one who had done something to Glinda. You don’t guard secrets that you don’t have in the first place. And there was definitely something in her mind that she was guarding closely.

“Yes,” I said. “I was thinking of my mother.”

It was a lie, and it wasn’t. I had been thinking of Glinda, who was as close to a mother as I’d ever had. Closer than my own mother had ever been, that’s for sure. Closer than Aunt Em was, even.

Glinda had brought me here. She had helped me get home to Kansas, once upon a time, when it was all I wanted in the world. I had to find her. I had to help her. Even Ozma—as lovely a friend as she could be—wasn’t going to stand in my way.

The night before the ball, I walked into my bedchambers. I knew that it was important to get a good night’s sleep, but there was so much on my mind that it was impossible to quiet it.

Toto was curled in the corner, asleep, dreaming about whatever it is that dogs dream about.

Without even having to think about it, I used my magic to strip my dress off; to untie the ribbons that held my hair into plaits. I sent them drifting off to the corner of the room, where I let them drop into a messy pile. I let an ethereal nightgown slip over my head. The shoes, of course, stayed on. I never took them off. I couldn’t even if I tried.

I levitated myself off the floor and floated myself to my bed, letting myself drop gently onto the cloud-soft mattress. I drifted off to sleep, not bothering to pull the sheets over my body. Instead, I wrapped myself in magic like it was a heavy down quilt.

As it enveloped me, I felt both happy and content—and emptier than ever.