The thought alone seemed impossible. They couldn’t already be in Vancouver tonight. They just couldn’t.
But nevertheless that was exactly what they were. After three days of seeing Canada’s magnificent landscape flash by the train windows, the journey was almost coming to an end. Emma couldn’t quite believe it. She had just gotten in the train, for gods sake! She was so comfortable in her seat. She had come to love her sleep cabin. But not the comfortability of her seat nor her sleep cabin could quite measure up to how much Emma appreciated the company she had been in for these past three days. Winning the ticket to this journey had definitely been lucky but ending up sitting across Regina had been more than just luck. Emma didn’t exactly believe in fate, but this experience had definitely tampered a little bit with her beliefs.
Emma adjusted a bit in her seat and glanced out of the window. She knew that she should probably look forward to arriving in Vancouver and continue onwards to Steveston. She had a place to stay, and maybe, just maybe, her collection of twisted fairy tales had a future. Dragon Publishing. Emma had every intention of googling it when she got settled in Steveston. And had Wi-Fi again. Emma shook her head slightly. She still couldn’t quite believe that Regina had just casually mentioned her publisher friend and suggested that Emma reached out to her. Just like that. All nonchalant. Seriously, there are so many things that are too good to be true about this woman, and I wanna see her again. We can’t just go our separate ways. I can’t just go about my business and expect myself to forget her. That’s not how this work.
Emma sort of already dreaded saying goodbye to the brunette, and she flashed Regina a little smile when she looked up from her book.
Regina returned the smile and closed the book. Emma saw herself as an avid reader, but she couldn’t quite beat Regina’s reading habits. The brunette had plowed through three books during this train ride. Today’s choice was Great Expectations. Emma was just about to say something to Regina when the brunette’s phone made a slight vibrating sound against the table between them. Emma watched as the brunette picked up the phone and then smiled. She did that a lot when she checked her phone, Emma had noticed, and that had made the blonde feel all kinds of discouraged. Was Regina smiling because she was on her way to see her boyfriend? That could very well be the reason why Regina was smiling. Emma felt dumb for fooling herself into believing that Regina was single. She’s an intelligent, funny, beautiful woman. Why would she be single?
Emma snapped out of it when she saw a yellow post-it note being slid across the table. Emma quickly bowed her head to read the note: ‘almost at journey’s end now.’
Unfortunately. “Yeah,” Emma said and flashed the brunette a little smile. “Been a long ride. Are you looking forward to getting off the train?”
Regina’s pencil scratched against the paper for a moment, and then Emma was presented with another message: ‘I must admit that I am, but this journey turned out to be less boring that I had feared.
Thank you for that.’
“I say the same,” Emma smiled. “I hadn’t really expected to get in contact with anyone during this trip, but... I suppose I had a change of heart.”
Regina offered a smile at that, and then her phone vibrated again. Emma watched as the brunette checked the message and then smiled again. Emma’s mouth twisted slightly at that. It’s her boyfriend texting her, isn’t it? He’s waiting for her in Vancouver. Emma’s heart sank. That had to be the reason why Regina was on her way to Vancouver. She was on her way to a new life with her boyfriend in Vancouver.
Regina looked up from her phone and Emma wasn’t quite fast enough to look away. But Regina just offered a smile at the accidental eye contact, and Emma didn’t feel as awkward as she would if she had made accidental eye contact with someone else. Regina grabbed the pencil again, and Emma felt how her stomach began to bubble with excitement when she saw the brunette scribble down another message.
‘Are you looking forward to arriving?’ Emma looked up at the brunette. I was, but now I’m not so sure... “Yeah, I suppose I am.”
Regina raised an eyebrow and scribbled down a single word underneath her first question. ‘Suppose?’
“Maybe I’m a little nervous,” Emma admitted. “I’ve lived in Toronto all my life. Moving away is a pretty big step for me.”
Regina nodded, and another note was slid towards Emma. ‘For me too. You have no idea how daunting this trip has been.’
“Did you live in Toronto for a long time?” Emma asked curiously.
Regina nodded and scribbled underneath the first sentence. ‘For a few years.’
“But you’re originally from Montreal?” Emma asked.
Regina nodded in affirmative.
“I’ve never been to Montreal,” Emma mused. “Is it a nice place?”
Regina nodded again.
“Maybe I should go there sometimes,” Emma said and then laughed a little. “But I think I would be screwed when I got there. I don’t know any French.”
Regina looked amused as she scribbled and then gave Emma another note. ‘It’s actually not that hard to learn.’
Emma chuckled. “You’re probably right about that, but I’m such a dummy when it comes to that. I’m afraid I would end up saying something rude when I actually try to find out where the bathroom is.”
Regina looked amused once more and shook her head slightly.
“Can I ask you something?” Emma said.
Regina raised an eyebrow in curiosity and nodded.
“That place I’m going to live at... Eugenia’s Inn,” Emma said. “Do you think they any waitresses? I’m sort of panicking because I don’t have a job.”
Regina was quick to rip another post-it off the stack and then she began scribbling. It didn’t take long before Emma could look down at another message: ‘Eugenia often looks for new waitresses, but if she doesn’t happen to be looking at the moment, she’ll be more than happy to point you in the direction of another diner that does. Otherwise try and talk to Mal. Maybe she can find you a job at Dragon Publishing.’
Emma’s jaw dropped. “Seriously?”
Regina nodded and scribbled underneath. Emma eagerly waited until the brunette had finished scribbling and then she looked down at the message: ‘Of course. Malena is always looking for people who are passionate about books. And from what I’ve gathered, you are. I think you and her will hit it off quite well. You should try and call her when you get to Steveston. Maybe you and her could schedule a meeting.’
“Are you sure you’re not a fairy good mother?” Emma blurted out.
Regina smiled and shook her head.
But Emma was still less than convinced. Seriously, Regina had to be some kind of fairy godmother. Emma felt dizzy. Imagine if she could actually get a job at Dragon Publishing. Working with books while she wrote on her fairy tales. No more waitressing, but a chance to actually use the college education. Oh my god, that would be so amazing! Now Emma was seriously torn. She was very, very excited about starting her new life, but at the same time she felt pretty bummed about having to part ways with Regina. That was not something she was looking forward to at all.
“Do you come to Steveston often?” Emma asked.
Regina nodded a bit as she grabbed a new sticky note and then scribbled. The answer to that question couldn’t have made Emma happier: ‘yes, Eugenia makes the best burgers you can imagine. I’ve never found a burger better than hers, and that has made me unable to enjoy a burger elsewhere.’
Emma chuckled and didn’t even get a chance to answer before another post-it note was given to her. ‘And her lasagna is very good too. Although not as good as mine.’
Emma chuckled again. “I love lasagna.” That was a hint.
But unfortunately, Regina didn’t pick up on the hint. She just smiled, and then her phone vibrated again. She was quick to grab it, and smiled as she checked the message.
Emma reminded herself to stop trying to flirt with Regina. You have no idea whether she’s single or not, Swan. For all you know she could be straight. As straight as a ruler. Emma still had nightmares about the last time she had flirted with a straight woman. It had been a good while before she had met Lily. It had been in a bar. The woman had been nice, approachable and beautiful. And she had been a brunette. Of course she had. Anyway, Emma and the woman had hit it off, and the woman had ended up asking Emma to come back to her apartment. Emma had had some alcohol that night, so the decision hadn’t been very difficult. She had gone home with the woman, they had ended up in the bedroom, and Emma’s brain had completely switched off.
Until the next morning where she was roughly shook awake by the woman. She was yapping in Emma’s ear about how Emma needed to leave right away. It turned out that the woman’s boyfriend was on his way home, and Emma realized that she had been tricked. She had very specifically asked the woman if she was attached in any way, and the woman had said that she wasn’t. Emma had been furious when she left, and many, many times she had been tempted to go back to the apartment and tell the woman’s boyfriend about what had happened. But every time she had nixed the idea just as fast. That would be a petty thing to do, and Emma tried her best to not be a petty person.
Emma blinked when a new post-it note was pushed towards her. ‘Is everything okay?’ the note said.
“Yeah,” Emma said quickly and flushed when she realized that she had been staring at Regina this whole time. “Sorry, I was just... zoning out for a moment.”
Regina flashed a reassuring smile and then nodded as though she was saying okay.
Ugh, why must she be so beautiful when she smiles? This is like, really annoying.
Regina went back to her book, and Emma wished she could do the same. Or at least busy herself with looking out of the window. But the problem was that it was so much more interesting to look at
Regina. Not even the beautiful snowcapped Rocky Mountains could get Emma’s attention. The brunette was definitely the most fascinating thing about this trip. The trip that was almost coming to and end. Emma sighed quietly. Why couldn’t we have met each other on the Trans-Siberian Express? That trip takes more than six days. We could have had so much more time together. So much more time to get to know her.
Regina’s phone vibrated against the table once more, and the brunette immediately picked up the device. Then she smiled again.
Emma’s mouth twisted slightly. If she was in doubt before, she wasn’t anymore. No, now she was a hundredth percent certain that someone was waiting for Regina in Vancouver. Emma knew it was stupid of her to feel jealous, but she couldn’t help it. She felt she really had a connection with a Regina. Emma hadn’t had a connection with anyone for a while. At least not like this.
The blonde leaned back in her seat and gazed out of the window. Or at least she pretended to. She was actually looking discreetly at Regina. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the brunette put her phone down and once again resume her reading. Or at least she did until a disturbance arrived in the shape of a small child that peeked in through Emma and Regina’s half open cabin door.
“Hello,” the tiny tyke said as he pushed the door open and slipped inside the cabin.
“Hey kid,” Emma said and raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure you’re supposed to be here all alone? Where are your parents?”
“I dunno,” the tyke said as he unbothered climbed up on the seat to sit next to Regina. “What are you reading?”
Regina looked a little lost as she pointed to the cover of the book.
And the little boy seemed equally confused. “What does that mean? I can’t read.”
“Great Expectations,” Emma said quickly. “It’s a grownup book.”
“What’s it about?” the tyke asked. He was clearly the curious type.
“Bit difficult to explain, kiddo,” Emma said and frowned. “Where are your parents? Do they know you left?”
Now the kid looked a bit guilty. “My mom went to the bathroom and I was bored.”
Okay, so we’re dealing with a runaway. “I think it would be better if we found your mom, kid.”
The little boy firmly shook his head. “Wanna stay.” He turned his attention to Regina. “Can you read to me? I wanna hear a story!” he flashed her the sweetest of convincing smiles before adding a: “pweaaase?”
Emma saw how Regina’s mouth twisted at that, and the brunette’s lips moved as though she was actually trying to say something. The little boy looked expectantly up at Regina, his little legs kicked in excitement, and then he once again said: “can you read to me? Pretty please?”
Emma quickly remembered what Regina had written in one of her notes. ‘I can whisper a little, but it tends to be very painful, so I’m trying to use my voice as little as possible.’ Emma rose from her seat, fully prepared to help the little boy back to his mother. God forbid that Regina should attempt to do what the boy is asking her to!
But before Emma even got the chance to say anything, the door to their cabin was opened again, and a tired looking woman with long curly hair stepped inside. “Roland!” she exclaimed. “There you are! You can’t just run away from mommy like that. You scared me! Now come here, you little rascal.”
The boy- Roland- obediently hopped off the seat and trotted over to his mother. “The lady doesn’t wanna read to me,” he said, and his lower lip quivered as he raised a pudgy finger to point at Regina.
“That’s enough young man,” his mother scolded him. “It’s rude to point. And you should be thanking these nice ladies for looking after you.”
“Thank you for looking after me,” Roland said obediently, and his eyes were only on Regina.
“You’re welcome kid,” Emma said.
“I am so sorry about that,” the mother said as she lifted Roland up. “He’s been complaining about being bored since yesterday morning. It’s a good thing we’ll be in Vancouver soon. Thank you for looking after him.”
“It was no problem,” Emma assured.
The woman turned her attention to Regina. “Thank you.”
Regina offered a small smile.
The woman turned around and then left their cabin. The door closed behind her, and Emma could hear her scold her child for running off, but right now Emma was far more interested in Regina. The blonde quickly turned her head and looked at said brunette. Regina looked like she was miles away.
“Are you okay?” Emma asked quietly.
Regina simply shook her head in response. Now she looked upset. Her dark eyes were overflowing with deep, genuine sadness, and the sight hit Emma like a sucker punch right to the gut. “Regina...”
But Regina just turned her head and looked out of the window. The implication was clear; the conversation was over, and Emma had no choice but to hold her tongue.
Emma swallowed something. This was almost more than she could bear. Regina looked so vulnerable as she sat there and stared out of the window.
After a moment or so, Regina suddenly rose from her seat and open the door to their cabin. Emma discreetly watched as she walk away, and she saw Regina head towards the bathroom. Emma’s heart sank slightly once more. She knew that Regina wasn’t going to the bathroom to do bathroom stuff. She was most likely searching for a place to be alone for a moment. Alone to be upset.
Emma’s stomach clenched at the thought of that. She wanted to help. The problem was just that she had no idea exactly how to do that. Emma had always been pretty bad at offering comfort to people in distress, but right now she genuinely wished that there was something she could say or do that could make things easier for Regina. The blonde sighed. It was hard to offer comfort when she still knew so little about Regina.
After a moment or so, Regina came back from the bathroom. She looked a bit pale and her eyes were a bit glassy, but she offered Emma a little smile as she sat down once more.
Emma wanted to ask if everything was okay, but once again she held her tongue. She didn’t want to ask a dumb question.
Regina looked out of the window for a moment, but soon Emma saw her reach for the post-it notes and heard the pencil scratch against the paper. She handed Emma another note. ‘Are you ready to go out and find some dinner?’
Emma couldn’t help but grin. “Yeah, absolutely. I’m starving.”
Regina smiled and shook her head and then wrote underneath: ‘Your appetite is very impressive. I admire that. I’ve never been very big on dinner.’
Now it was Emma’s turn to shake her head. “Seriously? How can anyone not be big on dinner?”
Regina just shrugged lightly.
“Oh, well,” Emma said and grinned again. “Just stick with me kid, and you will be.”
Regina seemed genuinely amused by that, and Emma felt relived when she saw the brunette smile.
They headed into the dining area and Emma ordered a huge steak and along with baked potatoes and gravy. Regina pointed to the tomato soup on the menu. The waiter didn’t comment on her choice.
And neither did Emma. Nor did she comment on the pill Regina discreetly took before starting her dinner.
After the dinner, and once the lights in the trains started to dim, the passengers gradually began to hover in the hallway. The children aboard the train were laughing and yelling, and the adults muttered impatiently. Everyone seemed fed up with travelling. Everyone wanted to get off the train.
Well, everyone except Emma. She was really very sad to see this journey come to an end. She was starting to feel oddly nervous now. Starting over a completely new place. Could she even do that? Would
she feel at home in Steveston? Would she get new friends? Would she get a job? A permanent place to live? There were so many things to think about, and right now Emma felt as though she wasn’t even capable of thinking of one thing.
But it didn’t matter that she didn’t want to get off the train. That was exactly what she had to. Once it had been announced over the speakers that they would reach Vancouver station shortly, Emma rose from her seat and grabbed her backpack from underneath the seat. She had already grabbed her stuff from the sleep cabin a bit earlier.
Emma weaseled her way into the hallway to join the other waiting passengers. She developed elbows of steels and managed to carve out a nice little place for herself to stand. Then the blonde turned her head and saw Regina rose from her own seat. The brunette reached above the seat and maneuvered her suitcase down from the overhead bin. Then she came into the hallway to join Emma.
“Didn’t most of the people get off in Winnipeg?” Emma asked.
Regina offered a slight smile at that and then shrugged lightly.
“Seriously, I swear there are more people than there was when I got on this train,” Emma half muttered.
Regina offered another smile, but it struck Emma that the smile didn’t look completely genuine. The brunette looked a little concerned. Emma wondered what she was concerned about. She looked
discreetly at Regina. Why is she moving from Toronto to Vancouver? What is she gonna do in Vancouver, and more importantly, who is waiting for her in Vancouver? Who is it she has been texting for most of the day? Emma had a plan about sticking around long enough to see if Regina was getting picked up by someone, and who that someone was. Was it silly? Yep. Was it possibly creepy and stalkerish?
Emma refused to answer that question. Was she curious enough to postpone her own plan about hitching a ride to Steveston? Yep, definitely.
Emma was pulled out of her thoughts when Regina’s phone chimed. She saw the brunette check her phone and then smile widely. Gone was the previous concern.
Regina tapped on her phone for a moment and then looked up once more. She reached within the pocket of her trench coat and then handed something to Emma. Emma quickly discovered it was her post-it notes. “Oh,” the blonde said and tried to smile. “Thanks.”
Regina tapped something on her phone and then turned the screen towards Emma: ‘I wouldn’t want you to forget your post-its.’
Emma chuckled slightly as she took the little stack of post-its from Regina. “I’m pretty sure I could have survived without them, but thanks.”
Regina offered another smile, and Emma considered just how the heck she was supposed to carry on knowing that she wouldn’t have the pleasure of seeing that smile as frequently as she had for the past three days. God, this is gonna be absolute torture!
That was when the train stopped, and at least three children started wailing when they fell over because they hadn’t held their parents’ hands as instructed. But they actually weren’t the only ones. Emma who had been miles away in her thoughts was definitely not paying attention to her surroundings, let alone the fact that the train was stopping, and thus she wasn’t holding on to anything when the train came to a halt. The blonde yelped, stumbled, and she would most definitely have fallen face first if it hadn’t been for the soft yet solid grip on her upper arm.
Emma regained balance and she could feel the blush spread across her chest as she looked up at her rescuer. Regina had raised an eyebrow, and Emma was sure the color in her cheeks rapidly went from pink to beet red. God, she looks so attractive when she does that. It’s not fair.
“Thanks,” Emma muttered half-heartedly.
Regina released her grip on Emma’s upper arm, and the blonde could see how she moved her lips and formed a single word. 'Careful'.
“Yeah,” Emma said awkwardly and rubbed the back of her neck. “I’m chronically clumsy. Did I almost throttle you?”
Regina shook her head in negative.
“Oh. Good,” Emma said. Now she was rubbing her upper arm. I swear she just made my skin heat up.
Another message was announced over the speaker: “You have now arrived at Vancouver station. We thank you for having travelled with us, and we hope you’ve had a pleasant journey.”
Emma glanced at Regina again. Yeah, my journey has been more than pleasant. A pity it’ll be over in a second.
After a moment or so, the doors to the train opened, and everyone, eager to get there first, started to push and elbow their way over to the closest door. Emma too did some pushing of her own. Now and then she looked back, but she couldn’t see Regina anywhere. Maybe the brunette had headed towards a different door than Emma had.
“Watch it,” the blonde said tightly to a child who pushed at the back of her knees. She could have sworn it was the same kid as the one she had met when she first stepped aboard this train. She heard the mother scold the child, but Emma didn’t bother to look back. Instead she focused on the task at hand. Getting out of the door. The people pushing around her suddenly made Emma feel a bit claustrophobic. She wanted to get out of the train right now, and more than once, she used her large backpack to shove people out of the way.
Stepping out on the platform helped. It eased some of the claustrophobia she was feeling. The air was chilly. Emma shivered and wished she had worn her parka coat instead of her leather jacket. But of course her parka coat was packed away in the very bottom of her backpack, and the idea of going through all her junk to find it was less than appealing.
Emma stretched her neck in an attempt to spot Regina, but she couldn’t spot the brunette in the crowd of people saying their hellos and hugging.
Where the hell did she go? Did she just vanish? Or did I seriously just manage to loose her in the crowd. Incredible. Well done, Swan. Emma groaned quietly and felt tempted to clap a hand over her forehead. I swear to god, if I seriously managed to loose her.... Emma could barely believe her own stupidity. Well, now I’ll never get her phone number. Great. Just great.
Emma knew that she couldn’t keep hovering on the platform. It would be pitch black soon. She would like to be on her way before that happened. The blonde fumbled to find her phone for a moment and then she wrestled it out of her pocket. Her Wi-Fi was back. And both her Instagram and Tinder was exploding. Emma ignored all the notifications and stepped aside so she wasn’t standing in the way, but there wasn’t many places to go, and so people kept colliding with her as she tried to google the number of the nearest taxi company. Emma glared at most them, and then she hissed a bit under her breath. She couldn’t concentrate when people kept running into her.
Finally, Emma got enough peace and quiet to actually dial the number to the taxi company, but when she brought the phone up to her ear and waited, there was no response in the other end. Emma gnashed her teeth in pure frustration. Great. Wonderful. Fucking fantastic. What was she supposed to do now? She couldn’t just walk. Steveston was too far away. The blonde adjusted her backpack slightly, and then she started to weasel her way through the crowd. Her plan was to either find a bus or a taxi to Steveston.
But she hadn’t gotten very far before something caught her attention. A redheaded woman wearing a thick, green fur coat so distinguishable it was impossible not to spot it. She was in the company of a young boy. He was nine, maybe ten years old, and he was clearly struggling to keep still. In fact he was bouncing slightly on his feet clearly ready to run, and the redhead put a hand on his shoulder to prevent him from doing so.
When Emma got closer, she clearly heard the boy ask: “where is she, aunt Z?”
“I’m sure she’ll be right here, sweet pea,” the redhead said patiently.
“The place is really crowded,” the boy pointed out, sounding concerned. “Maybe she can’t see us?”
“Then she’ll text us,” the aunt soothed.
Emma reminded herself that she actually had better things to do than listening in on a conversation between a young boy and his aunt. She should be on her way to find either a bus or a taxi. But she completely forgot what she was focusing on when the young boy suddenly yelled: “Mom!”
Emma turned her head just in time to see the boy force his way through the crowd. His aunt yelled something, but the boy didn’t pay attention. Instead he sprinted the rest of the way. It was a little difficult to keep track of his sprint due to how crowded the station was, but eventually Emma found him again, and to her enormous surprise, she saw the young boy barrel straight towards Regina and then throw himself into her waiting arms. Emma’s jaw dropped slightly. Regina has a kid? Wow. Okay. Did not see that coming. As in at all. Emma tried to wrap her head around this newest development as she discreetly watched the reunion between mother and son. It was clearly a reunion that had been a long time in the making. Emma saw how Regina squeezed the boy tightly and then crouched down as she covered his cheeks and forehead and kisses. The boy laughed, but the sound was a bit choked up. Was he crying? Emma tilted her head slightly as she inched closer so she could see the boys face more clearly. Yes, he was most definitely crying. And so was Regina. Her cheeks were wet, but she was smiling all the same. She kissed the boy’s cheeks again.
Emma saw the redhead in the green furry coat coming towards mother and son. She patted the boy on the back and then said: “alright, little man. My turn.”
The boy only reluctantly released his grip around Regina’s waist, and he kept clutching on to her hand as the redhead hugged his mother. Tightly, Emma noted. And the redhead looked quite choked up too as she released Regina and then kissed her on the cheek. “Oh, baby sis. You have no idea how much I’ve missed you.”
“How was the train ride?” the young boy asked at the same time.
Emma saw how intensely he looked at his mother, and then he laughed a bit and said: “really? Cool. At least you weren’t bored then.”
Emma felt confused for a moment, but then she saw how Regina moved her hands, and the blonde connected the dots. Regina was using sign language to communicate with her son, and the son clearly
had no problem with understanding what his mother was saying.
Suddenly Regina turned around, and Emma didn’t even have the time to avert her eyes and pretend she wasn’t listening in before Regina walked towards her along with her son and the redhead.
Once close enough, Regina flashed Emma a smile.
Emma smiled back. “Hi. I was just... looking for a cab. Or a bus.”
Regina frowned and then turned to her sister. Emma saw how Regina’s hands moved once more. The redhead frowned a bit, nodded slowly, and Regina moved her hands again. Then the redhead smiled,
and her nod seemed more final this time. She turned to Emma and said: “my sister would like to know if you’d be interested in getting a ride to Steveston?”
Emma looked at Regina. “Seriously?”
Regina nodded in affirmative and smiled.
“That would be great,” Emma said in earnestly. “But you guys really don’t have to, I don’t wanna intrude or any-“
Regina held a hand up to silence her and then she motioned for Emma to come along.
Emma immediately did as requested. Regina, the redhead and the little boy were walking in front of her. The redhead was carrying Regina’s suitcase, and the little boy was holding on to Regina’s hand tightly. To Emma, it seemed as though he was scared to let go of his mother again......
To Be Continued............