no place like oz Page 45

“Once you took care of Ozma, the prison she’s been holding me in ceased to exist. Poof! Just like that. Of course I came to find you right away. I’ve been so worried about you all this time. It’s a miracle I was able to get you those shoes at all. But you know—even all chained up, even in the darkest of dungeons—this old girl had a few tricks up her sleeve.” She wiggled an eyebrow at me and laughed again, but this time she stretched out her arms as she did it and gestured for me.

“Oh, come here, you foolish, dear thing.” As soon as she said it, I fell effortlessly into her embrace and suddenly found myself sobbing as she pulled me tight against her bosom.

“My aunt,” I managed to say through my tears. “My uncle . . .”

Glinda held me close. She kissed my head and squeezed me even tighter. Aunt Em had hugged me before, and of course I knew that she had loved me, but there had always been a certain distance between us. She had never wanted children, and even though she had tried her best with me, I always knew I wasn’t quite part of her plan.

Now, as Glinda kissed me and hugged me and stroked my hair, I wondered if I finally knew what it was like to have a mother.

“Darling,” she said kindly. “I’m so sorry about what’s happened to them. But it just couldn’t be helped. And, you know what?”

“What?” I asked, as she let me go and I stepped back. She took my arms, held them at my sides, and looked lovingly into my eyes.

“You’ll have a new family now. A family who loves you more than you can imagine.”

“Who?” I asked.

“Why, me of course, you silly goose! And the Scarecrow, and the Lion, and the Tin Woodman, and, oh, just about everyone in Oz, I imagine. You’re to be their new princess, you know, and you’re sure to be the most beloved girl in the land, before long. If you’re not already!”

“I’m to be princess?” I asked.

“Who else would be?” Glinda asked. “Her?” She pointed to Ozma, who was kneeling in the grass sniffing curiously at a patch of buttercups. “Well, they’ll still call her princess, I guess. All that fairy magic makes it unavoidable. La-di-dah! But as you can see, she won’t be good for much from now on. When we get back to the palace, I’ll see to it that she issues a decree making you Deputy Princess and Protector of the Crown. Won’t be too difficult. We’ll set her up with some dolls and toys and let her run wild in her own quarters while you sit on the throne and do all the important princessing work. With my help and guidance, of course. They’ll forget all about her soon enough; the people of Oz have short memories, bless their hearts. And they absolutely adore a new monarch. Oh, the coronation we’ll throw for you!”

I looked over at Ozma, and Glinda, and then over at the farmhouse. I wasn’t sure about any of this. Aunt Em’s feet were pointing away from each other in odd angles. She was wearing the same ordinary leather boots she’d worn on the farm—for all the fancy new shoes she’d been offered here, she’d refused to give them up.

Glinda saw the doubt in my eyes. She frowned sympathetically. “You poor thing. You always were such a sentimental sparrow.”

She waved her hand at the house. “Poof!” she said, and as soon as the word escaped her lips, my old home—along with my aunt and uncle—disappeared in a shower of pink bubbles, like there had never been anything there at all.

I felt a weight lifting from my shoulders. I felt my sobs easing.

“There, doesn’t that feel better?”

“It does,” I said. As soon as the reminders were gone, everything that had happened in the past couple of weeks felt very far away.

“It doesn’t matter where you came from,” Glinda said. “I came from someplace, too, you know. Someplace not that different from Kansas. I’ll tell you the story someday, if you can possibly stand the boredom!”

“I’d like that,” I said softly.

Glinda smiled back at me. “Good. Very good. Now, why don’t we leave all this useless sadness behind and go back to the palace? We need to pick you out a nice crown.” She put her arm around me. “Doesn’t that sound like a good idea?”

It did. It really did.

Glinda turned to Ozma. “You too, darling,” she said, and the princess scampered toward us, almost tripping over her own feet. “You two can be like wonderful sisters!”

Ozma nodded eagerly and took my hand.

Glinda winked knowingly. “Well, maybe more like distant cousins,” she said to me in a stage whisper. She put her arm around my shoulder, and we began the walk back to the Emerald City.

“Now,” Glinda said, “you must tell me all about your adventures. I was able to watch some of them while you were having them, but I have to say it all came in a bit garbled. Like listening to a radio with a broken antenna.”

I looked back over my shoulder. The house was gone. My aunt and uncle were gone. Ozma was flapping her arms as she skipped aimlessly through the fields.

She wouldn’t be much company. But Toto was racing behind us. And I had Glinda and all my friends in the palace. I had my kingdom.

My shoes sent a happy wave of magic shooting up through my body, and, on impulse, I grabbed a fistful of it and tossed it into the blue sky, where it burst into a pink and gold firework.

“That’s my girl!” Glinda exclaimed proudly. “Oh, I can’t wait to show you what you can really do with it. You were born to be a sorceress, you know.”