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The Roads Not Taken

By Maddy Lanslots

Romance / Fantasy

The Fierce Devils

Elphaba Thropp pushed open the door to the auditorium and started descending the steps. Her notebook was safely tucked underneath her arm, her glasses were perched on the bridge of her nose; and her bag, as always filled with books, pencils, and more notebooks, was slung over her shoulder. She pushed some raven hair out of her face and looked around, her gaze soon falling on one of the people scurrying around on the stage. Her eyes widened.

“Oh, Oz, no,” she sighed, moving down the final steps.

The subject of her dismay glanced up and his eyebrows instantly knotted together in a scowl. “What are you doing here, Artichoke?” he demanded. “This is a private band rehearsal!”

She gave him a look that, if looks could kill, would have been the last thing Avaric ever saw. “I,” she sneered, setting her bag down on the floor and placing her notebook on a small table beside it, “happen to be your new manager, Master Avaric. That means you might want to consider actually treating me like a human being for once, because you’re going to be stuck with me for a while.”

Avaric’s eyes widened. “What?!”

Boq, who appeared from the wings, raised his arm in a small wave. “Hey, Elphaba. How’s Galinda?”

She rolled her eyes at him and he grinned sheepishly. After he had taken Nessarose to the dance at the OzDust Ballroom, she had started acting rather clingy and he had told her apologetically that even though he really did think she was beautiful and he liked having her as his friend, he was not currently interested in anything more. Nessa had thrown a fit and pouted for a few days before accepting this – deep down, she’d already known that Boq was still in love with Galinda. Ever since then, Nessarose had dated one other boy for a while, which hadn’t worked out; while Boq had gone back to pining after a still uninterested Galinda.

“What are you doing here?” Boq asked Elphaba.

“She’s our new manager!” Avaric hissed at him and the Munchkin looked interested.

“Really?” he asked. “I didn’t know you liked music that much.”

She opened her mouth to reply, but just then, she was approached by a lanky boy with blond hair that kept falling into his eyes. “Hi,” he said with a warm smile, holding out his hand. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Cohvu.”

She returned the smile – good behaviour, after all, should be rewarded – and shook his hand. “Elphaba Thropp.”

“This is Gazilon,” said Cohvu, gesturing to the other boy approaching them, who looked her over curiously.

“Yes, I’m green,” she snapped. “Take a picture – it lasts longer.”

The boy flushed a little. “Sorry. That’s not why I was looking, though,” he said a little defensively. “I just didn’t expect our new manager to be a girl our age, that’s all.”

“Our last manager was Professor Eppington, who teaches Linguification,” Cohvu informed Elphaba. “It was not really a success.”

“Yes, well, this isn’t likely to be much better,” Avaric complained from where he was still standing on the stage. He crossed his arms. “How is Miss Spinach ever going to get us performances anywhere? One look at her and everyone’ll run away screaming. She’ll make people think we’re a vegetable band!”

“Be nice,” Cohvu admonished him. “You don’t even know her – don’t judge her by her skin colour.”

“Oh, he does know me,” said Elphaba, staring daggers at her sworn enemy. “We’re in the same year. Let’s just say we don’t exactly get along.”

“Because you look like someone vomited and then shaped his puke into the form of a person!”

“I’d sooner say it’s because you are a terribly rude and obnoxious pig,” said Elphaba, tapping her finger against her cheek as if thinking about the matter, “but maybe I’m wrong. After all, you’re so much smarter than I am, aren’t you, Avaric? Your midterm scores were simply brilliant.”

He flushed a dark red colour. “Shut up, Green Bean!”

“Sticks and stones, Avaric,” she said, treating him to an innocent smile.

She would never let on that all the things people said about her actually hurt her. She’d never tell anyone, not even Galinda, that she sometimes quietly cried herself to sleep at night because she so badly wished that things were different... that people could treat her normally. But just because their words hurt her, did not mean she couldn’t hurt them back. And she just happened to know that Avaric had done a horrible job on his midterms and that his father had threatened to disown him if he kept up his current behaviour. She also knew that Avaric, despite his being an arrogant jerk, genuinely did care about his family and felt ashamed for having disappointed them.

She didn’t want to sink to the other students’ level and stoop so low as to rub this into Avaric’s face, but she had learnt by now that there were only a few ways to shut him up and really get to him. One of those ways was to hit him where it hurt most. She was not proud of it, but sometimes she just couldn’t help herself – especially not around Avaric, who had a particular gift for getting on her last nerve.

Things had changed since she had first started Shiz. Most of the students had grown used to her by now; Galinda and Fiyero’s friendship had done a lot for her. She was by no means popular, but the amount of students calling her names and bullying her had significantly decreased, which she was glad about. Of course, things had changed once more after her and Fiyero’s break-up, now about four months ago. When they’d still been together, the students often talked behind her back and sneered at her when they saw her, but were suddenly incredibly polite to her when Fiyero was with her. After they separated, the female half of the student population had gone back to fluttering their eyelashes at Fiyero and mostly ignoring Elphaba, which suited her just fine. She’d take being ignored over being called names anytime.

“So, Elphaba,” said Cohvu, trying to make peace between her and Avaric. “What do you want us to do?”

“Why don’t you play a few of your songs?” she suggested, taking a seat and opening her notebook. She pulled a pencil from her hair – she often used pencils to secure her hair in a bun – and tilted her head a little to the side. “That way, I’ll know what your music style is, which will give me an idea as to what kind of performances would suit you.”

“Sure!” Gazilon leapt back up onto the stage and held out a hand to help Cohvu up as well. The two boys took their positions – Cohvu behind his drum kit and Gazilon behind his keyboard. Boq played bass guitar and Avaric picked up his own guitar, glowering as he took his place behind his microphone.

“You sing?” asked Elphaba, raising one eyebrow.

“He does,” Gazilon chimed in before Avaric could say anything and he and Elphaba would start yet another fight. “So do I. We’re still kind of looking for a good lead singer,” he admitted, “but until we find one, we’re doing it this way.”

“We didn’t want to start looking until we at least had a manager,” Boq explained. “If no-one had wanted the job, we’d have been unable to go on, anyway.”

“Why did you want the job?” Avaric spat, glaring at Elphaba. “Why in Oz are you here? Don’t you have anything better to do? You never really struck me as the musical type – I didn’t know vegetables –“

“Avaric,” Cohvu cut the boy off sternly. “That’s enough.”

“Stop calling her a vegetable,” Boq added.

Avaric snorted. “Or what? You’ll slap me with a corncob?” He threw his head back and laughed at his own joke. “You can’t take me, Munchkin.”

“We could kick you out of the band,” Gazilon threatened and Avaric stopped laughing instantly, looking at his fellow band members incredulously.

“You’d throw me out because of her?!”

“We’d throw you out because you’re acting like a jerk,” Gazilon corrected him. Avaric flushed and grumbled, but didn’t say anything else.

“To answer your question,” said Elphaba as if nothing of importance had happened, “I’m here for the extra credit. Managing your band is an extracurricular activity, which will improve my chances of getting a job.”

Another extracurricular activity?” Boq asked in awe. “Elphaba, you’re president of the student government, you’re in the debate club, you regularly publish articles and legal reviews in the university paper, and you’ve tutored pretty much half your classmates – who, if I may add, would have flunked out of school if you hadn’t. And that is on top of you doing a major in Life Sciences, a double minor in History and Literature, a Sorcery seminar, and an extra class in Politics. I think any employer would die to have you work for him.”

Cohvu and Gazilon were now gaping at her and she shifted uncomfortably. “You’re forgetting that it’s not just any employer I’m aiming for,” she reminded Boq. “I have to try everything I can to show him how much I appreciate his interest in me and that I am willing to work hard for it. Besides,” she added wryly, gesturing to her skin, “I have something to compensate for.”

Boq shook his head. “You don’t have to compensate for your skin, Elphaba,” he said. “He would never let that discourage him. He’s better than that – he’s above all of us.”

“He is,” she agreed, “but I’m not willing to take the risk.”

“Who is “he”?” Cohvu asked curiously and Boq tossed over his shoulder casually, “Oh, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz has expressed an interest in Elphaba. He wants her to come meet him one day and maybe become his Grand Vizier.”

The other two boys’ eyes nearly popped out of their heads. Boq grinned at Elphaba, who rolled her eyes at him, but she was grinning, too.

“Right,” said Avaric irritably. “Can we get started now?”

“One more thing,” said Elphaba. “What are you called?”

The four boys on stage exchanged looks.

“Um... The Fierce Devils,” Gazilon finally muttered sheepishly.

Elphaba had to suppress laughter. “Seriously?”

“Yeah,” Avaric admitted reluctantly. “We couldn’t come up with anything else.” He glared at her again. “Why? Do you know something better?”

“Not yet,” she told him, “but I’ll think about it. We can brainstorm later.” She gestured to the stage. “Go ahead. Impress me.”

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