‘Can I ask what you’re writing about?’
Emma looked up in both surprise and delight when she saw the note being slid across the table. She and Regina hadn’t communicated for a while. Regina had been reading her book, and Emma had been a bit busy. First, she had called Eugenia Wolf, the owner of Eugenia’s Inn, and the elderly woman answering the phone had definitely sounded eccentric, but very nice and forthcoming. Emma had booked a room at the inn, and it hadn’t been a problem for Eugenia when Emma had half-embarrassed admitted that she didn’t know how long she was gonna need the room for.
And after having made the call, Emma had been caught up in her writing. But now she was saving her documents. Answering Regina was far more important.
“Sure,” the blonde said and grinned. “I’m writing fairy tales. Or, twisted fairy tales. I call them “Twisted Endings”. Not very original, I know, but it was the only thing I could think of.”
Regina seemed intrigued, and it didn’t take long before another post-it note was slid towards Emma.
Emma immediately looked up from her laptop. Reading the post-it note was much more interesting. ‘Twisted fairy tales? That sounds interesting. Can I know more about it, or should I stop bothering you?’
“You’re not bothering me at all,” Emma assured and flashed Regina a smile. “I’ve loved reading fairy tales ever since I was a kid, and I’ve always loved writing too, so one day I just thought: why not combine that? As soon as the thought had entered my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so one night I just sat down and began outlining my ideas. What if Sleeping Beauty actually had Kleine Levin syndrome and entered a dream world when she fell asleep? What if Cinderella was a runaway in the modern world? What if Hansel and Gretel never was left in the woods by their father? What if they were actually running away from an abusive home, and the so-called witch who found them actually was good?” Emma chuckled. “Maybe it’s just a pipe dream, but I can’t stop writing, and either way it’s nice to have something to keep me occupied.”
It didn’t take long before another note joined the two others. ‘Why would it be a pipe dream? It sounds very interesting.’
Emma chuckled. “Thanks. If I ever get anything published, you’ll get a free copy.” She saw how Regina’s body made a movement that could indicate a chuckle. The pencil scratched against the paper for a moment, and Emma received another post-it note. ‘Oh no, no free copies. I’ll buy your book, just like everyone else.’
Emma snorted. “Thanks, but I don’t think it’ll ever become a book.”
Regina raised an eyebrow, and Emma could hear the silent question. Why?
“Well,” Emma said and considered her answer for a second. “I guess I’m just a pessimist, and no one has ever really... encouraged me to keep writing. More the opposite, actually.”
Regina grabbed her pencil and scribbled something down again. She wrote fast, Emma noted, and the blonde was almost impressed when she soon was presented with yet another post-it note. The written words made Emma feel all sorts of warm. ‘I’m sorry to hear that, creativity should be applauded and encouraged. Not the opposite. Keep writing your stories and ignore the people who tries to bring you down. I’m sure you’ll succeed.’
“Thanks,” Emma smiled. “That’s really nice of you.”
Regina scribbled again, this time for a longer period of time, and then Emma got another post-it note: ‘my friend Malena owns Dragon Publishing based in Vancouver. She specializes in books that falls a bit outside the usual categories. Perhaps you could reach out to her once you’ve finished your book? Mal is a bit of an “ice queen” on the outside, but don’t let that scare you off. She’s actually really great.’
Emma felt a bit dizzy. Had Regina just pointed her in direction of publishing house who possibly wanted to publish her book? Emma could barely believe it.
“Are you some sort of fairy godmother?” Emma asked awestruck.
Regina’s shoulder shook slightly, and her brown eyes gleamed as she shook her head no.
“I’m starting to think that you are,” Emma said and sniggered. “First you recommend me a place I can live, and then you casually mention that your friend just so happens to own a publishing house who
could be interested in my book. My money is still on the fairy godmother thing.”
Regina smiled and shook her head.
“What about you?” Emma asked curiously. “What do you do? I mean, apart from making people’s wishes come true?”
Shit. Wrong thing to ask. Regina’s face fell a little, but she nevertheless grabbed a post-it note and scribbled something down. Emma fidgeted slightly as Regina wrote, and after a moment, the blonde could lean forward and read another message from the brunette: ‘I was an English literature professor at Montreal University.’
Emma’s gaze snapped up to the brunette’s face. A literature professor? Holy shit. That’s impressive. But then Emma snapped out of her amazement long enough to pick up on that one little word on the post-it note. Was. ‘I was an English literature professor.’. Was. Past tense.
Emma blinked when another post-it note was slid across the table. ‘I quit my job a while back, but maybe I’ll find something else to do in Vancouver.’
“Sounds like a good plan,” Emma said, but she silently wondered what had happened. What had made Regina quit her job? Emma quelled a sigh. It was like, the more things she learned about the brunette, the more questions she had.
But right now wasn’t the time for questions. It was time for.... Dinner. Emma’s stomach growled in approve, and she saved her documents once more just to make sure, and then she closed her laptop.
She carefully stuffed the laptop away in her bag, and then turned her attention to Regina once more. “I’m thinking about heading out and getting some dinner. Do you wanna come along?”
Regina nodded and rose from her seat.
They walked down the hallway and headed towards the dining area. Before leaving, Regina had grabbed the post-its notes and the pencil, and that had made Emma smile. If she was very lucky, this could mean that Regina wanted to communicate more while they had dinner.
Today Emma felt less befuddled as she ordered her food. And plus, she actually took her time to look at the menu before ordering. She ended up making her wish come true and ordered chicken. Crispy fried chicken drumsticks and French fries. Emma could barely wait. Obviously, she was hungry. Like always.
The waiter then turned his attention to Regina and asked: “and what can I get for you, ma’am?”
Regina pointed to something on the menu, and Emma saw how the waiter frowned as he came a bit closer and then asked: “French onion soup?”
“The portions are very small,” the waiter said. “How about you chose the soup as a starter and then order something else as your main course? We’ve got a special offer on sushi tonight...”
Regina shook her head firmly and pointed to the French onion soup again.
“Just French onion soup?” the waiter asked.
“Alright, ma’am,” the waiter surrendered. “And what can I get you get you to drink?”
Another point to the menu.
“Water?” the waiter asked.
Regina nodded once more.
“Very well. Coming right up,” he said and turned to Emma. “And your fried chicken as well, miss.”
“Sounds good,” Emma said and offered him a little smile. But she felt ridiculously irritated at him at the same time. Why did he have to question Regina’s choice of meal? I get that he’s just trying to do his job and make sure that nobody goes to bed hungry, but if she wants onion soup, give her the fucking onion soup instead of asking her questions she can’t answer!
After a moment or so, Regina’s water and Emma’s beer arrived. Emma had allowed herself to have a drink tonight. Just because she could. She smiled a little as she raised her glass and made eye contact with Regina. “Cheers.”
Regina returned the smile and raised her own glass to clink it with Emma’s.
Emma’s smile widened, and she found that she was entirely capable of ignoring the buzzing coming from her phone in her pocket. I know that’s Mary Margaret, and I also know that I don’t give a damn.
I’m so done with her.
But Emma clearly wasn’t the only one who had picked up on the buzzing phone. Regina frowned slightly and tilted her head. Her gaze flickered towards the post-its notes like she was trying to determine whether she should make Emma aware that her phone was ringing.
“Just ignore it,” Emma said and chuckled a little. “It’s not anyone I want to talk to anyway.”
Regina nodded, but Emma could see the confusion etched on her face.
Emma leaned forward slightly as she admitted: “I’m sort of running away from the person who keeps calling me.”
Regina raised an eyebrow again, and now she looked quite concerned.
It felt as though Emma’s insides were melting. Regina looked so worried.
“Don’t worry,” Emma said quickly. “I’m not in any danger. I’m just trying to get away from an irritating person. That’s all.”
Regina nodded, but she still looked quite concerned.
“I’m fine,” Emma assured. “I really am. Please don’t worry about me.”
Regina shook her head, grabbed the pencil and sticky notes. She scribbled a bit and then pushed a note towards Emma. ‘You’ve just told me that you’re running away from a person who keeps calling you, and you don’t me to worry about you?’
Emma chuckled slightly. “Yeah, that’s pretty much what I’m saying.”
Regina didn’t look convinced.
“Seriously, don’t worry,” Emma said. “I’m totally fine. I just needed to get away from Toronto. That’s all.”
Regina nodded slowly and took a sip of her water, and the next second it was Emma’s turn to be worried when she saw Regina’s face contort. The brunette grimaced slightly as she sat her glass of water down and brought a fist up to her mouth as though she was trying to clear her throat without drawing any attention to herself.
Bearing that in mind, Emma quickly looked away and pretended to be fiddling with her fork. No staring, Swan. Don’t be nosey. The fork slipped between her fingers and landed on the floor with a loud clatter. Regina jumped a little in her chair.
“Shit. Sorry,” Emma muttered and felt her face grow hot as she quickly ducked down to retrieve the fork. When she popped her head up once more, she could have sworn that Regina looked a bit amused.
“I’m perpetually clumsy,” Emma said and immediately cringed. Perpetually? Really, Swan? Where the hell did that come from? Are you trying to impress the literature professor or something like that?
But maybe it was worth it. Regina still looked rather amused.
After they had been sitting a while and exchanged opinions about the sugar-drugged children, the waiter arrived with their food. Emma had never felt happier in her life. Or so it felt. The fried chicken smelled amazing. And so did Regina’s onion soup. “Bon Appetit,” the waiter said in a rather horrible accent.
Both Emma and Regina smiled at that.
Emma immediately “went to work” and attacked the first drumstick. God, that tastes a-freaking-mazing! I hope I can find drumsticks like these in Steveston.
Regina too began to eat. She dunked her spoon into her soup, and out of the corner of her eye Emma saw the brunette slip the spoon in between her lips and then raise an eyebrow. She was clearly impressed, and Emma rather happy about that. She wanted Regina to enjoy her food as much as she did.
Emma quickly reduced the five drumsticks to four. She was just about to stuff four French fries into her mouth when she heard a slight clattering sound. Not a loud one. Just a sound that indicated that Regina had just put her spoon down on her plate. Then Emma heard the sound of a zipper. A bit of shuffling. The sound of a bottle full of pills being rattled slightly. She knew exactly what was going on.
She knew that Regina was taking a pill right now, but Emma refused to look up. She refused to act nosey or turn this into a big deal. She told herself to keep eating like nothing was going on. It was so obvious that Regina didn’t want any commotion over this, and Emma was more than willing to follow the brunette’s silent plead.
Just keep eating, Swan. Don’t look up. Not even if you’re concerned.
Emma almost felt disappointed when the lights in the train dimmed down and it became time to go to bed. She and Regina had been so busy exchanging book recommendations and talking about their favorites, and Emma was sad to see their conversation being cut short.
But that was exactly what happened. The sky was dark, and the lights were dimmed when Regina slipped Emma a note, telling the blonde that she was gonna call it a night.
“Alright,” Emma said and smiled in spite of her disappointment. “Good night then. Sleep well.”
Regina offered a smile and then she disappeared down the hallway. Maybe it was a cheesy thing to do, but Emma couldn’t help to poke her head around the corner and watch the brunette walk away.
Once Regina had disappeared, Emma couldn’t really see a reason to remain in her seat either. The most interesting thing about this trip just left. Might as well go to bed. As Emma walked down the hallway, she tried no to think too much of the fact that the trip would be ending soon. She and Regina would go their separate ways, and the thought of that genuinely upset Emma. She didn’t want the beautiful brunette to walk out of her life just like that.
I’ll have to pluck up the courage to ask for her phone number before the trip ends. I mean, worst case scenario she’ll say no, but at least I’ll know then, right? Emma had experienced plenty of “what if’s” in her life. She was not about to make Regina another. Not when she had every opportunity to ask for her phone number.
Emma felt a twinge of anxiety as she neared her sleep cabin. She was ridiculously scared that Regina was in fact gonna say no to exchanging phone numbers. Aw man, that would really suck if she said no.
I mean, when am I gonna meet another woman like her again?
Emma answered the question herself. Never. She was never gonna come across a woman like Regina again. And then she felt ridiculous. She had known Regina for two days. Two days, Swan. You’re getting far too attached way too quickly. This isn’t normal. Or was it? Emma had never experienced anything like this before. Normally she wasn’t one for falling head over heels for someone. It had taken months and months before she and Lily had even shared their first kiss. Emma wasn’t one for striking up conversations with strangers. Until Regina.
Kissing Regina... Oh my god.
Emma tried not to think too much of Regina’s plump, perfect lips as she went into her sleep cabin, changed into her sleepwear and then grabbed her toothbrush and toiletries to go to the bathroom. There was no one standing in line tonight, so Emma could quickly brush her teeth and do her night routine. She noted that she didn’t look as tired today. The dark circles underneath her eyes were gone. Good.
Suddenly, it was very important for Emma to look her best. I wonder what Regina thinks of the way I look, Emma thought to herself as she quickly braided her hair. Then she scoffed a little. Who said Regina had even paid attention to that? Oh well. At least she isn’t married. She’s not wearing a ring. Emma had noticed that fairly early on, and she had been thrilled for a moment until she forced herself to come back to earth. She had firmly reminded herself that even though the brunette wasn’t wearing a ring, she could still be attached one way or another.
Now Emma’s head was swimming with thoughts, and she sighed deeply as she locked the door to her sleep cabin. How the hell was she supposed to go to sleep now? She flopped back on the bed. Her mind was flooded with Regina. Both how she wanted the brunette to remain in her life, but also the mystery surrounding her. Why couldn’t Regina speak? That was Emma’s biggest question.
But she knew she couldn’t just blurt out such a question. That would be so rude.
It was definitely time to think about something else. Emma quickly found her phone, and for the first time since this morning, she checked to see who had called her.
Mary Margaret had. Several times in fact. She had also left quite a few messages on Emma’s voice mail. Nothing new there. Emma just scoffed. She had no intention of listening to those messages. Why ruin her relatively good mood? Mary Margaret wasn’t worth it. Emma briefly considered to block her adoptive mothers’ number, but she knew that if she did that, Mary Margaret would find new ways to contact her. In fact Mary Margaret had a whole arsenal of different cellphones she could use for the purpose. Emma wasn’t a hundredth percent sure how many cellphone the pixie haired woman had. It would be better to just change her number. Emma would do that once she arrived at Eugenia’s Inn in Steveston.
Emma hummed tunelessly as she dialed Ella’s number. If she couldn’t sleep, she could talk to her best friend. That would be a great way to pass the time.
It didn’t take long before Ella picked up, and she was full of complaints. She hadn’t heard from Emma since last night, and that simply wasn’t good enough.
Emma completely agreed with Ella and promised that she would brush up on her “check in”-skills.
“You better,” Ella said firmly. “Anyway, how is the train ride going? Feeling bored yet? I knew I would be if I didn’t have any Wi-Fi.”
Emma chuckled. She knew full well how addicted Ella was to her previous Wi-Fi. “It’s actually not that bad,” Emma said truthfully.
“Seriously?” Ella said disbelievingly in the other end. “Three days with no Wi-Fi, and you’re not going insane?”
Emma laughed. “I’ve been in some pretty good company.”
“Oh yes? Do tell,” Ella said immediately.
“Well...” Emma lowered her voice some. “There’s this woman...”
“Uh-oh. No offense Em, but I really don’t want to hear about train sex-“
“No!” Emma said and laughed quietly. “Nothing like that, Ella.”
“Thank god,” Ella said relieved. “Then spill it.”
“Well, I’m sitting right across this woman named Regina,” Emma said and could feel how she smiled at the mention of Regina’s name. “And I’m telling you, she’s really something else.”
“A knockout?” Ella guessed.
“Yeah, definitely, but it’s more than that,” Emma said and fiddled slightly with her braid. “She’s so interesting, she’s into books and she’s a professor in English literature.”
“Damn,” Ella said. “Looks like you’ve over scored, Em.”
“Hardy har har,” Emma said. ”I haven’t scored her at all, Ella.”
”But you want to?” Ella guessed.
“Well...” Emma said and tapped a finger against her forehead. “I definitely wouldn’t have minded this train ride to be a bit longer so I could get to know her even better.”
“Oh,” Ella said in the other end. “I see the problem.”
“But she’s gonna stay in Vancouver,” Emma said hopefully, “and I’ve sort of asked her to have coffee with me sometimes, so...”
“A half appointment to get coffee “sometimes” isn’t enough,” Ella said firmly.
“I know,” Emma sighed.
Ella chuckled. “Ask for her phone number.”
“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about doing that-“
“Thinking isn’t enough, Em,” Ella interrupted. “You gotta do it. It sounds like you already like this Regina.”
“I do,” Emma admitted. “Which is probably ridiculous because I barely know her-“
“So you need her phone number,” Ella said, interrupting once more. “That’s essential. I mean, how else are you gonna talk to her and get to know her better if you don’t have her phone number?”
“Yeah,” Emma said absentmindedly. Talk to her. I can’t actually do that whether I get her number or not. But she decided not to tell Ella that just yet. Instead she steered the conversation towards other
subjects. Subjects that didn’t have anything to do with Regina and Emma’s “way too soon”-feelings for her.
Emma wasn’t completely sure whether it was the beer she’d had at dinner that had gone straight to her bladder, but either way she found herself waking up in the middle of the night, desperately needing a bathroom.
Emma groaned as she dragged her unwilling body out of bed. She fumbled to find the light switch and then moaned in complain when the light was much, much too bright. But it did help her find the door. And finding the door was essential right now.
Emma stumbled out in the hallway. She so hoped she wouldn’t meet anyone. She was well aware that her hair was a right mess at the moment.
Reaching the door to the bathroom, Emma thanked her rare lucky star. There wasn’t anyone standing in line.
But her luck only lasted so long. When Emma pressed the doorknob, the door didn’t open. Emma cringed a bit when she realized that she had just interrupted whoever was in the bathroom, and she almost said “sorry” before realizing that that would probably make it even more awkward than it already was.
I’ll just wait right here then. Emma shifted a bit on her feet. She really needed to pee. There was no other way of saying it. Damn, I never should have drunk that beer at dinner. I should have known that it would come back to bite me in the a-
All thoughts about complaining completely left Emma’s mind when she started to pay attention to what she was hearing.
Water running. That wasn’t very unusual for a bathroom, but it was the other sounds that made Emma pause. She could hear rapid breathing coming from the bathroom, and normally that would have annoyed her, because she really wasn’t interested in hearing two people doing the dirty in a train bathroom.
But this sort of rapid breathing only alarmed her. Emma could easily hear that there was only one person in the bathroom. And whoever it was, was clearly crying quietly. Emma could recognize that sound everywhere. She had done it a number of times herself during her years with Mary Margaret.
Emma heard more sniffling from the bathroom, and she considered for a moment whether she should interfere or not. Maybe she was being obnoxious, and maybe it wasn’t her business, but it could be someone who needed help. Maybe one of the other passengers had become sick during the night or something like that. If that was the case, Emma would have to help them. She couldn’t just ignore this.
More sniffles followed, and growing more concerned by the minute, she curled her hand into a fist and then quietly knocked on the door.
“Hello?” the blonde called. “Is everything okay?”
There was no answer.
Emma considered it for a second. Then she knocked quietly once more. “Look, I’m not trying to butt in or anything, but are you alright? If you’re sick, I can fetch a doctor for you.”
There was still no answer, but the water was switched off. Emma waited. She heard some muffled sniffles and then the person behind the door took a deep breath. Silence. Emma wasn’t completely sure what to do. Should I try knocking again or should I wait? Should I try and say something? I want to help, I’m just not completely sure how I’m-
The door was ripped open, and Emma yelped as she stumbled backwards in sheer surprise. But what she saw surprised her even more. It was Regina who came out of the bathroom. Regina with tear stained cheeks and sleep ruffled hair. Regina wearing a silk pajamas with a collar that went all the way up to her chin.
“Regina?” Emma asked. “Is everything alri-“
She didn’t get the chance to finish her question before Regina pushed past her and almost throttled her in her eagerness to get away. She disappeared down the hallway in a flurry of silk and dark locks.
Emma was left stunned by the bathroom. Stunned and concerned. Maybe more concerned than she had any business being, but she couldn’t help it. The concern sat in the pit of her stomach like a lump as she locked herself in the bathroom to do what she came for. She was so distracted she ended up standing in front of the bathroom mirror with the water running for ten minutes before she snapped out of it and reminded herself that she needed to get back to her sleep cabin.
Emma frowned deeply as she locked herself in the sleep cabin once more. What was that about? What happened? God, I wish I could just ask her! Now more than ever it upset Emma that she and Regina were still only friendly with one another. Emma had no right to ask Regina serious questions.
Emma sighed as she flopped back on the bed. God, this was difficult! I care too fucking much about her already. And I can’t ask her what’s going on. It’s not fair. It really, really isn’t.
Seriously, how was she supposed to sleep when she knew that Regina was alone and upset somewhere? Suddenly Emma imagined how she, in a moment of madness leapt from her bed and started to knock on every door until she found Regina. A pity she couldn’t do that either.
Emma stared at the ceiling. This was gonna be a very, very long night.
Emma was completely exhausted the next morning. So exhausted she actually almost overslept. She cursed under her breath as she more or less tumbled out of bed and got dressed. She felt a bit like a zombie as she opened the door to her sleep cabin and sleepwalked into the hallway. There was hectic activity, and the children had never been louder. Or so it felt. Emma could feel a nagging headache right under her left eyebrow. Great. Perfect. Exactly what I need.
Her headache only worsened when she reached her own seat and found the seat across her empty. Where was Regina? Emma immediately felt a surge of panic rush through her. Suppose she really was ill last night. God, I should not just have let her walk off like that. I should have fought harder to find out what was going on!
That was when Emma spotted something. Not one, but two yellow post-it notes lying on her seat. Emma immediately picked the notes up and read it:
‘Emma, I’m really sorry about what happened. What you witnessed last night was a panic attack. I’ve had a few of them ever since my accident, I honestly thought they were getting better. But obviously, not entirely. I’m so sorry for throttling past you like that. You were just acting like any concerned person would. I do hope you can forgive me for being so brusque with you.’
Emma was still looking at the note when she heard footsteps approach. The blonde quickly looked up and saw Regina standing in front of her. The brunette was wearing a black pencil skirt, a red silk blouse and she had a black silk scarf tied around her neck. She flashed Emma a hesitant little smile, and then she handed the blonde a cup of coffee. And a plate with two waffles covered in maple syrup.
“Thanks,” Emma said and shook her head slightly. “But you didn’t have to do that.”
Regina glanced between the note and Emma. Her mouth twisted slightly.
Emma immediately understood. “There’s no harm done, Regina,” she assured. “It’s okay. Really.”
Regina raised an eyebrow.
Emma immediately flashed her a beaming smile and to stress out her point of everything being forgiven and forgotten she turned her attention to the waffles. She took a large bite and then “mm’ed!” loudly.
Regina’s smile became more genuine at that.
Emma returned the smile, but she could still feel that lump of concern in her stomach. As she ate her waffles, she continued to discreetly look at Regina. ‘What you witnessed last night was a panic attack.
I’ve had a few of those since my accident, I honestly thought they were getting better. But obviously, not entirely.’
My accident. My accident. What did that mean? Maybe she was wrong, but Emma’s mind quickly started to connect certain things. Could that accident have anything to do with the fact that Regina couldn’t speak?
Emma glanced discreetly at Regina over her coffee cup. Was that how it happened? Was that how she lost her voice? An accident? Emma almost shivered at that thought. She had initially thought that it had always been like this for Regina. That she simply had been born like this, but if the blonde really was right and an accident had robbed Regina of her voice....
Emma took a sip of her coffee. It’s none of your business, it’s none of your business. Don’t get too involved. That had been Emma’s mantra ever since ending things with Lily. No way she was gonna get involved and have her poor heart broken all over again.
So why was it that she wished she was more involved with Regina than she was right now? Where did that fit in? What’s the point in making a brilliant plan for the future if I can’t follow it? What’s the point of swearing to be done with women, when the next woman I bump into just so happen to be this beautiful, intelligent and mysterious creature I want to know more about? Why can’t I just follow my own rules? Why can’t I just listen to my brain instead of my heart for once? Hasn’t my heart gotten me in trouble enough already?
To Be Continued?