Changed for Good by Ellen Fleischer

It’s been ten years since the Thanksgiving reunion. Blair and Jo meet up in Peekskill to see Tootie’s directorial debut… and come face to face with a few embarrassing truths.

“Jo? Jo!” Blair ignored the looks from those passing by. She didn’t usually call out to others while standing in the middle of the street like this, but being back in Peekskill after all these years and seeing the familiar figure walking past her made her feel like she was seventeen again.

The brunette turned with a frown that quickly changed to a surprised smile. “Blair! I can’t believe it! What are you…?” She stopped. “I know what you’re doing here,” she said, with none of the hostility that she might have exhibited as a teen. “Same as me, right?”

Blair nodded. “Our Tootie, directing her first Broadway show. I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.”

“Hey,” Jo replied, “first, it’s ‘Dorothy,’ not ‘Tootie.’ I missed that Thanksgiving get-together and even I remember that. Second, it’s a touring company. Not quite Broadway, but hey, it’s a step.”

“True, true,” Blair gushed, “but still. Our little Tootie. My, she’s come such a long way.”

“Blair, it’s been twenty-five years. She coulda started walkin’ and crossed the globe ten times by now.” For a moment, the years fell away and LAPD Captain Joanna Polniaczek-Bonner became the Jo that Blair had known at Eastland. She’d gone back to wearing her hair in a ponytail, too—although she was braiding it now. “So,” she said, relaxing into a smile once more, “how are things in the world of hotels and hospitality?”

“They’re… hospitable,” Blair replied with a slight giggle. “I wonder if Natalie’s coming.”

“Nah, according to her Facebook feed, she’s actually out in LA this week.”

Blair blinked. “You’ve got Natalie friended on Facebook?”

“Yeah, don’t you?”

“Well, yes, but,” Blair smiled and spread her arms helplessly, “I’ve got everyone friended on Facebook. Who has time to actually read the feed?”

“Me,” Jo said, making an annoyed face. “Anyway, I told Nat I was coming here tonight. She said to tell Dorothy she’s sorry she can’t make it but she’s sure it’s gonna be great.” Jo frowned. “She also said that I shouldn’t get mad at Dorothy. And when I asked her what she meant by that, she said she had to go and signed out of chat.” Blair lifted her eyebrows in wide-eyed confusion. “Hmmm,” she said. “Well, maybe it’ll be clear after the show. Where are you sitting?”

“Uh…” Jo fished her ticket out of her purse and checked the seating map on the back, “balcony, row G, uh, looks like I’m in the center section near the aisle. You?”

Blair didn’t bother pulling out hers. “Orchestra,” she sang, “Row J, dead center. Naturally.”

“Hahaha, of course.” Jo made a face. Then she looked down at her watch. “Uh… look, can we catch up later? Jamie’s just doing a little shopping and I promised her we’d go out for supper before the show.”

“No problemo,” Blair smiled. “See you later. Oh, by the way, do you have any idea what the show’s supposed to be about?”

Wicked?” Jo nodded. “Well, kinda. I mean I only read the book and I know the play made a few changes, but it’s sorta the story of the Wicked Witch of the West before Dorothy showed up and turned her into a puddle.”

“Ah.” Blair beamed. “How appropriate then that it’s our Dorothy who’s going to revive her. Ta-ta, Jo,” she waved. “I’ll see you at the theater.”

“Yeah. Hey!” Jo stopped and called after Blair’s retreating figure.

Blair stopped in her tracks and turned with exaggerated poise. “Yes, Jo?”

“Let’s meet up in the lobby at intermission. I’ll see if I can grab one of the couches against the wall. If not, I’ll be waiting at the bar.”

Although there were a few vacant couches, Jo was already at the bar, drinking a beer just slowly enough to avoid chugalugging it, a furious expression on her face when Blair huffed up.

“I!” she sputtered. “Me… you… us… we…”

Jo set down the beer. “Very good, Blair. You know your pronouns. Some of them.” She patted the stool next to her. “Have a beer. You’ll feel better. Or… wait, you’re more a wine drinker, right?”

“Yeah,” Blair said, sitting down, her rage now replaced by surprise. “But how did you remember that?”

“C’mon, Blair. First day of junior year? How could I forget?” She shook her head. “Just like then. You brought wine and…” she set her nearly-empty glass down on the bar, “…I got beer.”

Blair smiled. “Not one of our more brillllliant ideas.” A shadow fell across her face. “Ugh! I cannot believe she did that!”

Jo sighed. “I know, I know. Hey, I told you the show is a little different from the book. Maybe Galinda gets ‘another one of her brilliant ideas’ in every production.”

“Oh, really?” Blair countered. “And I suppose Elphaba speaks with a Bronx accent and tells Galinda and Fiyero that they’re going to be picking up their teeth in every production?”

Jo sighed again. “I hope that’s not all she remembers about me after all this time.”

“Oh, come off it Jo,” Blair scoffed. “At least Elphaba’s smart and tough and… and… and Galinda’s so shallow! I was never—“ She broke off in mid-sentence at Jo’s raised eyebrow. “Okay, so I was a little sheltered and… maybe just a tad clueless…”

“A tad? Blair, you thought ‘roughing it’ meant having to share a bathroom!”

“I did, didn’t I?” Blair admitted, after a moment’s pause. Her eyes widened. “You know something? You’re right.”

“Hey,” Jo dropped her bantering tone. “Nah, you weren’t that bad.”

“Yes,” Blair said in a small voice. “Yes, I was. I didn’t realize it until we went into New York together for that weekend.”

“Yeah, I remember. That friend of yours. Dina… Becker.” Jo snorted. “How’s she doing?”

“I haven’t spoken to her in years,” Blair admitted. “We’ve got nothing in common anymore. And until that weekend, I thought we were pretty much alike. But when, her cook had to take time off to deal with a medical emergency, all Dina cared about was that there was no food ready for her party. Oh and when I pitched in to try to salvage the situation, she was horrified that I wanted to cook.”

“What?” Jo demanded. “C’mon, you were always a better cook than I was. I mean, you’re no Mrs. G, but you’re okay.”

“No, it wasn’t that she didn’t think I was a good cook,” Blair explained. “It’s that she didn’t think it was good that I knew how. A year earlier, that would have been me, too.” She looked down for a moment. “You know, when you first came to Eastland, Mrs. Garrett told me that she’d arranged for us to be roommates—even before we moved in over the cafeteria. She said she thought it would be good for me. I thought she meant…” She stopped. “I thought she was worried that you’d have a hard time at Eastland without someone… like me. Smoothing the way. That she wanted you to learn how to fit in by watching me.”

“Blair, I ate, not too long ago,” Jo said. “I’d like to try keepin’ it down.”

“Jo. Jo, don’t you see? She didn’t want me to try to teach you. She wanted you to try to teach me.”

Jo froze. “Nah. Nah she didn’t.” She blinked. “Did she?” She finished her beer. “You know,” she said slowly, “even if that’s true, it wasn’t just a one-way street. I mean, all I saw was how rough I had it… I,” she hesitated. “Remember when Grant asked me to that cotillion? And you found out why?”

Blair nodded slowly. “I still can’t believe he—”

“Yeah, yeah, water under the bridge. You didn’t know what he was planning until after the fact. The thing is, where I come from, you sort of got used to the idea that if something like that happened, you were guilty until proven innocent. Especially if it was someone like me, going with someone like Grant, and someone like you found out about it.”

“You thought I’d think that you’d come on to Grant?” Blair asked.

Jo sighed. “Yeah. Then… I went down to the kitchen when you and he were talking. And I heard what you said to him when he told you he’d expected me to be… okay with his idea.”

“Well, you wouldn’t have been. I knew that.”

“Yeah. But you said so to his face and that wasn’t something I expected. You stuck up for me. With him. And with those girls in the cafeteria who were running down my mother. And I don’t know if I ever thanked you for that.”

“Oh, Margo had it coming,” Blair laughed. “I’d been wanting to do that all through my first year. But Mrs. Garrett,” Blair’s voice grew softer, “she really knew what she was doing, pushing us together.”

“Yeah.” Jo grinned. “So. When Galinda and Elphaba sang about loathing each other, did you or did you not flash back to our first year together?”

Blair giggled as the buzzer sounded to summon them back for the second act.

Jamie had grown up. The last time Blair had seen Jo’s daughter, she’d been an undersized fourteen-year-old. Now, she was an attractive young lady in her mid-20s. After the obligatory hellos and hugs, Jamie announced that she was going to the stage door to collect autographs.

“Yeah, go on, kid,” Jo grinned. “We’ll catch up.”

“You know,” Blair said quietly, after Jamie had left, “it’s really a shame that so many of those students at Shizz were ready to write off Elphaba without taking the time to get to know her. I think they missed out on a lot.”

“Yeah, and Galinda… Glinda… whatever you want to call her… I don’t think she ended up being as shallow as everyone thought she was in the first act.”

“Still want me to hold Tootie down while you clobber her with a pillow?”

“Oh, hell, yeah.”

They shared a smile.

“You know,” Jo ventured, “Jamie wants to get her masters in drama. She’s thinking of NYU. It’s why I came out here with her. She’s checking out the campus, and I figured it was time to take a trip up to Peekskill. When I found out about the show, that pretty much helped us decide on the date to head out here. Anyway, Jamie told me once that acting isn’t about being something you’re not. It’s about finding something in you to bring to the character. Maybe… directing is about finding something in your memories to bring to the production.”

“Mmmm,” Blair considered. “No, I think it’s about throwing your weight around and telling people what to do.” She grinned. “Oh, Jo. I think I’ve just had another one of my brillllliant ideas. Do you think Tootie needs an assistant?”

“Do you think you’ll be able to pick up all your teeth once I’m done knockin’ ’em out?”

They looked at each other and laughed.

“Come on,” Blair said, throwing an arm around Jo’s shoulders. “Let’s go find Tootie.”

Jo smiled. “You know what’s going to go through her head when she comes out and sees us waiting, don’t you?”

“Oh, yes.”

In unison, oblivious to the other patrons milling about on the crowded street, both women sang out, “Someone is in troub-bull!”

Then they burst into laughter again and went in search of the stage door.

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?

But because I knew you,

Because I knew you,

I have been changed for good.

###

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Ellen Fleischer was born in Montreal and currently lives in Toronto. She has been writing fan-fiction since 2004 under the pen-names Esther-Channah, Estherdragonbat, and Dragonbat. She is the managing editor of Indyfest Magazine and is currently hard at work on her first novel. You can find more of her stories at Fanfiction.net and Archiveofourown.org.

Credits: “For Good” written by Stephen Schwartz. Recorded by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth on the Wicked original cast album (Universal, 2003).

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