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To Hear Her Voice In The Silence

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The redhead, whose name Emma didn’t know lead them towards a large black Mercedes, and once they reached the car, the redhead turned to Regina and asked: “Do you want to drive, sis?”

Regina shook her head in negative, and the redhead nodded. “Alright. I’ll do it then. You’re probably tired after the long journey and all, am I right?”

Regina nodded this time.

The redhead unlocked the doors, and the boy climbed into the backseat. Regina followed suit, and the redhead stuffed Regina’s suitcase into the trunk of the car. Then she turned towards Emma and motioned towards her backpack. “Here, let me grab that for you.”

“Thanks,” Emma said and felt how her shoulders uncurled when relieved of the extra weight.

“You don’t mind the passengers’ seat, do you?” the redhead asked. “Normally, Henry wants to sit up front, but today is a bit of a special case.”

“The passengers’ seat is fine,” Emma said and saw how the redhead smiled as she watched Regina and the little boy in the backseat. Henry. The boys name was Henry. Regina had a son called Henry.
Emma still was a bit surprised at that discovery, but she also wondered why she hadn’t considered the possibility that Regina could potentially have kids.

Emma climbed into the passenger’s seat. The redhead got behind the wheel and then started the car. She maneuvered the Mercedes out of the parking lot, and Emma glanced in the mirror and saw the station disappear.

“I can understand that you and Regina met in the train?” the redhead asked as she adjusted the mirror.

“Yeah, that’s right,” Emma nodded. “We met right after the journey started. I was in Regina’s seat.”

The redhead chuckled at that. “And your name is Emma.”

“That’s right,” Emma confirmed. “Emma Swan.”

“Emma Swan,” the redhead repeated and smiled. “My name is Zelena. I’m Regina’s sister. Or half-sister, but details, details. It’s nice to meet you. I’m glad my sister found someone to share the train ride with.”

“Yeah. It’s been nice to have someone to hang out with,” Emma said truthfully.

Zelena smiled and nodded and then said: “so next stop Steveston and Eugenia’s Inn.”

“It’s really nice of you to give me a ride,” Emma said quickly. “But I could just have taken a bus or something.”

“Oh pish posh,” Zelena said dismissively. “Steveston isn’t so far away and can’t very well say no to Regina when she’s being that insistent.” The redhead chuckled, and Emma saw in the mirror how Regina narrowed her eyes slightly and then moved her hands again.

Zelena laughed again. “I’m not being ridiculous, sis. You were being insistent.”

Regina signed something again, but this time Zelena didn’t translate. Instead she simply laughed once more.

Zelena was driving rather fast, and Emma abandoned trying to see the road drift past them. Instead she glanced in the mirror again. As discreetly as she could, she looked at Regina and her son. Regina looked very comfortable as she sat in the backseat with her head tipped back slightly. The boy, Henry was resting his head on her shoulder, and he was still clinging onto Regina’s glove clad hand. Now and then he shifted to look up at his mother, and every time he did that, Regina willingly met his eyes and smiled reassuringly. Emma felt as though she was witnessing something deeply private, and she quickly looked out of the window again.

“So, Emma,” Zelena said briskly. “What brings you to Vancouver?”

“Oh, uhmm... different circumstances, I guess,” Emma said halfheartedly.

“You’re from Toronto?” Zelena asked

“I am,” Emma confirmed.

“But you felt like going somewhere else?”

“Yeah.” Emma said simply. Zelena was clearly the curious type.

“What do you do?” Zelena asked.

Emma almost chuckled. Yup, definitely curious. “I’m a writer. Well, at least I’m trying to be one. I haven’t actually had anything published yet, but I’m hoping to get the chance once the book is finished.”

“What do you write then?” Zelena asked, and her eyes flickered to the mirror.

Emma quickly understood why. Regina was currently signing something.

“I am not interrogating her,” Zelena huffed, “I’m just trying to be friendly.”

Emma laughed. “It’s fine. I write fairy tales. Or, twisted fairy tales. I like to play around with the characters and modernize and re-event things.”

“You write fairy tales?” Henry exclaimed. “That’s so cool!”

Emma chuckled slightly. “Thanks. I hope other people will think that too.”

“Henry loves fairytales,” Zelena said, and now she sounded a bit overbearing. “Isn’t that right, Hen?”

“Yes,” Henry said and sounded very much like a boy who was defending his choices. “And I don’t care what you think, aunt Z, I’m not too old to read fairy tales!”

Zelena looked like she disagreed.

Regina scowled a bit at her sister, and then her fingers moved quickly in the air. It was almost like her fingers were dancing, and Emma quickly became a bit dizzy as she tried to keep up, but Henry clearly didn’t have the same problem. He watched his mother intensely and then said: “fairy tales are important for both children and adults. They teach about different cultures, different ways of doing things.
They teach children about cultural differences in the world and encourages them to explore their curiosity and urges them to learn new things and experience new places. They also teaches that a person who comes from nothing can turn their life around. Fairy tales teaches right from wrong and teaches that good will always win. Maybe that’s not always true, but it still teaches a very important lesson: be the hero, and not the villain. Fairy tales can help children deal with their emotions, and finally, they allow everyone, children and adults to run away from whatever reality they’re facing, fairy tales gives the reader hope, and I don’t see how anyone can ever be too old to have hope and feel uplifted. As you never become too old to dream. So really, Zelena, what you’re saying doesn’t make a wink of sense.”

The boy took a deep breath and then looked at his mother. “Did I get all that right, mom?”

Regina nodded proudly and ruffled his hair. Emma saw the brunette’s lips move, and then Henry laughed and said: “thanks, mom.”

Zelena rolled her eyes. “Alright, jeez. I don’t remember asking for a lecture, Regina.”

Regina’s fingers moved in the air once more, and then Henry chuckled as he said: “But you got one anyway.”

Zelena rolled her eyes again and shook her head, muttering under her breath.

Emma glanced at mother and son in the backseat once more. Henry had put his head on Regina’s shoulder once more. “I’ve missed you, mom.”

In response, Regina put an arm around Henry’s shoulder and squeezed a bit.

“So have I, but I haven’t missed your lectures.” Zelena muttered.

Regina looked up and moved her fingers in the air.

“Yes you have,” Henry translated with a snigger. “She says you’re a liar.”

“Well, I’ve never...” Zelena said, but Emma saw how she flashed Regina a big smile in the mirror. Zelena’s green eyes were overflowing with tenderness for her little sister. She was clearly beyond thrilled to have Regina back.

Emma leaned back in the car seat. She couldn’t help but wonder what had caused their separation. It had to be a longer separation. Otherwise Henry wouldn’t act like this, right? He wouldn’t be clutching his mother’s hand as though he was fearing another separation.

Emma glanced discreetly at the brunette. She knew Regina had been in Toronto. But for what purpose? And for how long? No matter how much Emma considered it, she couldn’t come up with an answer.

Regina was a mystery. A beautiful mystery. A mystery, Emma wanted to uncover more than anything. She wanted to stay in contact with Regina, but exactly how was she supposed to ask for Regina’s number when both Regina’s son and sister were present? The thought alone made Emma feel uncomfortable. She didn’t know how to do this She glanced discreetly at Henry. Was he and Regina on their way to reunite with a father? Emma swallowed something. Henry didn’t just pop out of nowhere. Of course there had to be a father somewhere. Damn. You really know how to pick ‘em, Swan. Either they were just “experimenting” like that woman Emma had ended in bed with, or secretly looking for a way out like Lily, or they already had a family like Regina. Emma sighed quietly.

The drive continued. Zelena asked Emma several questions, and Emma mentioned how Regina had recommended her to contact Malena from Dragon Publishing to maybe get a job there. Zelena nodded eagerly and confirmed what Regina already had. That Mal was always looking for new people who loved books as she did.

When Zelena didn’t talk, Henry did. He eagerly told Regina about all the things he had done in school, and to Emma it seemed like the little boy was giving his mother a full report. He was filling her in on all the things she had missed. But he never said anything about where Regina had been, and what had kept her away for what Emma guessed was a longer period of time. Emma was itching to ask questions she had no business asking. Questions that were far too personal considering how she and Regina had only known each other for three days. Emma felt annoyed. And she probably had no business being that either. But she couldn’t help it. She was annoyed that she sooner rather than later would have to get out of this car. She was annoyed that she had to see the Mercedes drive away, she was annoyed that she didn’t know when she was gonna see Regina again. And most of all she was annoyed that she couldn’t ask for Regina’s phone number right here and now.

Emma clenched her jaw slightly, fiddled with the strings on her backpack. She heard her phone go off in her pocket, but Emma didn’t bother checking the message. It was probably just Mary Margaret, but that problem would soon be taken care of. Emma had every intention of changing her number as soon as she had settled at the inn. Change her number, contact Mal from Dragon Publishing, not think about Regina. That was Emma’s general plan for the day, and she had every intention of sticking to it. Come hell or highwater.

Emma looked in the rearview mirror. She made eye contact with Regina and flashed the brunette a little smile. Regina returned the smile, and Emma felt a million butterflies flutter around somewhere behind her navel.

 

******************

 

The car journey ended. Of course it did. Zelena almost startled Emma when she announced “Steveston!”

Emma looked out of the window as they crossed the town line to one of the cutest little towns she had ever seen in her life. Steveston was the picture tranquility. So idyllic, so picture perfect. For a moment
Emma felt like the luckiest bastard on earth, and not particularly annoyed.

It was a little fisher village. Exactly like Regina had described it. There was a beautiful harbor, and once they drove down Main Street, Emma saw a pawnbroker, a library, a grocery store, an ice cream store, a flower shop, a pharmacy and a few hardware stores. Emma was impressed by the bell tower, but generally, she was impressed at the entire town. It was the sweetest little place Emma ever had seen.

“It’s a very small town,” Zelena said. “But very sweet and peaceful. I’m sure you can find some inspiration for your stories here.”

“I’m absolutely sure I can,” Emma said and smiled. “This place is perfect.”

“There’s also a few places for sale,” Zelena said. “So if you’re thinking about settling down permanently here, it won’t be a problem at all.”

Emma chuckled. “Well, right now, I’m definitely tempted.”

“And there’s an animal shelter too,” Zelena continued. “So if you should feel the urge to get a furry companion, that wouldn’t be a problem either.”

Emma chuckled again. “Okay, now I’m really tempted.” She had wanted a dog ever since her early childhood, but Mary Margaret hadn’t allowed it. Too many germs, she had said. And too much mess. She
didn’t have the time or urge to run around after a dog, and thus she had rejected Emma’s wishes.

“There is a medical clinic just off Main Street,” Zelena said. “But it’s very small, so if there should be an emergency, you’d have to phone for an ambulance to get taken to the nearest hospital.”

“I’ll remember that.”

“And there’s a garage too,” Zelena continued. “You won’t have any problems finding a car.”

“Great,” Emma said. She had saved up enough money to buy a car. Obviously, not a big one or anything, but nevertheless she could afford a car. That felt good to know.

“And what else is there...” Zelena continued and frowned slightly. “It’s been over five years since I was last here, so things are a little hazy...” she considered it for a second and then continued: “right, of course. There’s a sheriff’s department and a park and a beautiful forest area. Ideal for picnics.”

Emma chuckled. The redhead was starting to sound ever so slightly like a tourist guide.

“And last but not least, there’s Eugenia’s Inn,” Zelena announced as they pulled up in front of a beautiful, grey building.

Emma looked at the place. It looked very nice. Kinda old fashioned. Really charming like the rest of the town. “Great,” Emma said and suddenly felt a bit uneasy. This was it. Journey’s end. Now she was supposed to thank Regina and Zelena for the ride, grab her stuff, say goodbye and then go into the B&B. Emma felt nervous. This was a completely new place, and no matter how nice and charming the little town looked, there was no way of telling how things would go. But she couldn’t very well sit frozen in this car. The blonde firmly told herself to pull herself together and then she flashed Zelena another smile as she opened the door and stepped outside. She went round to the back of the car, opened the trunk and then hauled her backpack out. This is it. Now I’m supposed to say goodbye and watch them drive away.

Emma slung her backpack over her shoulder and went round the Mercedes once more, but before she could get the chance to say anything, she saw that the door to the backseat was open, and Regina was stepping outside. She typed something on her phone, and then turned the screen towards Emma.

Emma squinted a bit when she saw Regina’s bright screen in the darkness. Then she read the message: ‘would you mind if I went in there with you? It’s been a while since I last saw Eugenia, and I’d like to say hello to her before we leave again.’

Emma’s anxiety melted away, and she smiled broadly as she nodded and said: “yeah, sure. Of course you can go in with me.”

“Can I come with you?” Henry asked and leaned out of the open door. “Please?”

Regina frowned a bit, and then her fingers danced in the air once more.

Henry didn’t look satisfied at the answer. “But mom...”

“Hen, your mom will be right back,” Zelena promised. “She’s just going in there to say hello to Eugenia. It won’t take very long.”

Henry looked up at Regina with his big brown eyes. “You promise.”

Regina nodded in affirmative and moved her fingers once more.

“Ooookay,” Henry said and leaned back in his seat.

Regina turned her attention back to Emma and made a little “shall we?”-gesture with her head.

Emma nodded and followed the brunette as she began walking towards the inn.

The place was equally as cozy on the inside. Especially the wallpaper caught Emma’s attention. Grey forest wallpaper. It gave a certain fairytale vibe. Emma already felt inspired to write on her collection of twisted tales.

After having admired the wallpaper for a second, Emma turned her attention towards the desk in the middle of the diner. An elderly quite boxy woman was standing behind the desk, clearly in the middle of some sort of argument with someone who was in the backroom. Emma could hear the other person yell something back, and from what she could hear, it was a young woman. The grey-haired woman behind the counter barked back in response. She was clearly unhappy with the length of the younger woman’s skirt. From what Emma could hear, she wanted the young woman to change to something “that doesn’t make it look like you’re on the menu!”, and to that the young woman shouted back that “at least she didn’t dress like Norman Bates when he was dressed as his mother!” the elderly woman behind the counter puffed out her cheeks in response, and Emma saw how her face got an alarming shade of red.

Emma found their little exchange to be incredibly amusing and she had almost forgotten why she was there, but then Regina crossed the room and pressed the little bell on the counter once.

The elderly woman behind the counter immediately abandoned the argument and turned her attention to the newcomers instead. When she saw Regina, she reacted by slamming her palm flatly against the counter, clearly stunned at what she saw.

Regina flashed her a little smile.

“As I live and breathe...” the grey-haired woman said as she quickly came round the counter. “Regina Mills!” once close enough, she put her hands on Regina’s shoulder for a moment before engulfing her in what could only be described as a big ol’ hug.

Emma saw how Regina returned the embrace and smiled as she patted the elderly woman on the back. Next Emma heard a voice call from the back room: “gran? Granny, what happened? What was that sound?”

“Come see for yourself,” “granny” called back.

There were some shuffling, and then a young brunette emerged from the back room. She was wearing a white top, a very short red shirt with a little apron over it, and she had red streaks in her hair. She was probably slightly younger than Emma. She squealed loudly when she saw Regina, exclaimed “no way!” and then rushed over to Regina to hug her. If Emma didn’t know better, she would say that this was another family reunion. Or at least something that looked like one.

“I just can’t believe it!” the young brunette exclaimed as she released her grip on Regina. “After all this time! How are you doing? Are you okay?”

Regina smiled and nodded in affirmative. The young brunette hugged her once more for good measurement, and finally, the elderly woman standing next to them turned her head and spotted Emma.

“Oh,” she said as she quickly took her glasses off, wiped them and then put them back on her nose. “You must be Emma...?”

“Swan,” Emma said. “Yeah, that’s me.”

“You’re the one who called about a room,” the young brunette said as she finally released Regina.

“Yeah,” Emma confirmed with a slight nod.

The young brunette shook her head a little. “Incredible. You’re the first one to rent a room in months.”

“Ruby!” the elderly woman barked. “Kindly stop making our inn sound unattractive to our new guest.”

Ruby glared.

The elderly woman ignored her and flashed Emma a warm smile. “Welcome, miss Swan. My name is Eugenia Wolf, and that rude creature is my sweet granddaughter Ruby.”

Ruby glared again, but then she sobered up and flashed Emma a smile. “Hi, and welcome. We Wolf’s tends to make a horrible first impression, but I promise you, Granny isn’t as bad as she sound.”

“Ruby!” Eugenia hissed. “One more word out of your mouth and I’ll fire you, young lady!”

“And what, run the place all alone?” Ruby nonchalantly shot back.

Eugenia muttered something about finding better waitresses another place, but when Ruby flashed her a smile, she softened considerably and flashed her granddaughter a smile in return.

“See, not as bad as she appears,” Ruby sniggered.

Emma tried very hard not to snigger too.

Eugenia ignored her granddaughter and focused on Emma as she said: “I’m afraid our rooms aren’t very big...”

“That’s totally fine,” Emma assured. “I don’t require lot of space.”

The grey-haired woman smiled as she reached underneath the desk and found a key. A very pretty and antique looking key. As she handed it to Emma she said: “I’ve chosen room number seven for you. It has a lovely view over the square. I hope you don’t mind that. But if you prefer forest view-“

“Square view is fine,” Emma quickly assured as she weighed the key in her hand. It felt good to have a place to stay.

“Good,” Eugenia said, smiling once more. “I hope you’ll enjoy your stay here.”

“I’m absolutely sure I will,” Emma said. “Regina was adamant that this is the best place.”

Eugenia clicked her tongue as she looked at Regina. “You shouldn’t go around and spread lies, young lady!”

Regina just smiled and shrugged lightly.

Emma smiled too. It was a little funny to hear the posh and refined Regina be referred to as “young lady”. Emma already liked Eugenia and her boisterous way of being, and if Ruby was just one bit like her grandmother, Emma would have no problem with liking her either.

“Is that all your luggage?” Ruby asked and nodded towards Emma’s backpack.

“Yep,” Emma said.

“Hmm. You travel lightly,” Ruby said and flicked a lock of brown-red hair behind her ear. “But that’s fine by me. Less stuff for me to carry when I help you to your room. Want me to take you there now?”

Emma knew that time was up. Now she was really supposed to say goodbye to Regina and let Ruby show her to the room. Emma shifted on her feet and glanced at Regina. She had never been very good at saying goodbye. Actually, she had tried to avoid it for most of her life, but now... Saying goodbye had never felt quite as meaningful and important and right now.

“Do you want me to show you the room?” Ruby asked again.

Eugenia’s steel grey gaze landed on her granddaughter. “Didn’t you have some things to attend to in the backroom?”

“But I always show our guests to their room,” Ruby pointed out.

Eugenia shrugged. “I’ll do that. I’m pretty sure I can hear some boxes screaming your name in the backroom. If I were you, I’d go back in there and check what all the screaming is about.”

Ruby rolled her eyes, muttered a “fine!” and then disappeared into the backroom once more.

Once she was gone, Eugenia emerged from behind the counter once more. She nodded towards Emma’s backpack. “Why don’t I bring that into your room? It looks heavy.”

“Oh, umm, thanks,” Emma said as Eugenia without much further ado grabbed the backpack and relieved Emma of the extra weight.

Eugenia disappeared up a wooden staircase with Emma’s backpack, and once Emma couldn’t hear the elderly woman’s footsteps anymore, she turned to Regina.

“They seem like really nice people,” she said.

Regina nodded and smiled in affirmative. She found her phone in her pocket and then tapped a bit on it for a moment. Then she turned the screen towards Emma: ‘Eugenia can be a tad eccentric from time to time, but she’s the sweetest, most helpful person you’ll come across. And Ruby is the same. They fight like cat and dog, but don’t let that fool you.’

Emma chuckled a bit and then said: “thanks for the ride. It was really nice of you.”

Regina just shrugged a bit, tapped on her phone and then turned the screen towards Emma. ‘It was the least I could do after what you’ve done.’

“I didn’t really do anything,” Emma pointed out.

Regina tapped on her phone again, smiled a bit and then turned the screen once more: ‘You gave me someone to communicate with during the trip. That meant a lot.’

Now Emma was the one to shrug. “I was more than happy to do that. You made this trip a lot less boring. I don’t think anyone has ever managed to keep me so entertained.”

The corners of Regina’s mouth twitched in amusement. She turned the screen, tapped, and then turned the screen towards Emma again. ‘That’s very impressive given how little I’ve said during the trip.’

Emma immediately looked up and scanned the brunette’s face. Regina shook her head and her dark eyes gleamed with humor and self-irony. Emma immediately relaxed once she realized that Regina was in fact making a joke.

“Well...” the blonde said and shifted slightly once more.

Regina just nodded a bit.

Emma fidgeted slightly. She was beginning to feel a bit ridiculous. Their conversation seemed to have come to a natural ending. Emma couldn’t think of anything else to say. Well, she could, but most of them were silly, and besides, Regina’s family was waiting for her in the car. Emma was keeping the brunette here for no apparent reason.

“Well then,” Emma said again. Now she felt pathetic. Pink cheeked like a schoolgirl with a silly crush. And the fact that she was trying to pluck up the courage to ask Regina for her phone number, only added to that feeling. Suddenly, Emma was taken right back to her high school years where she asked out Maya Hendricks. And was rejected. Emma had been sixteen at the time, hormones had been racing around in her body, and she had been crushing on Maya Hendricks for months.

Maya had rejected her. She had even laughed while doing so.

Emma forced herself to snap out of it. She wasn’t in high school anymore. She was a grown ass woman, and it was about time she started acting like one.

But unfortunately, her epiphany came a bit too late. Emma snapped out of it just in time to see Regina offer her a smile. The brunette lightly touched the top of Emma’s shoulder, and then she turned around and started to walk towards the door.

Emma felt a completely unexpected surge of panic as she saw Regina walk away. She knew that if she wanted to act, she had to do it right now. “CanIhaveyourphonenumber?!”

Regina turned around and frowned in confusion. Emma couldn’t blame her. That was smooth, Swan. Real smooth. Emma knew that she sometimes was awkward, but this definitely took the cake.
CanIhaveyourphonenumber. Nice. Real nice.

Emma’s cheeks heated up in a way that made her think it would be possible to fry eggs on them. But she couldn’t exactly take her words back.

Regina came towards her once more. She was still frowning a bit as she found her phone in her pocket and began tapping away. She didn’t exactly tap for a long time, but longer than it would take to simply write “no”. Emma felt optimistic for a second. And then she thought of the fact that Regina could be in the middle of fabricating a long explanation why Emma couldn’t have her phone number. But when the screen was turned towards her, Emma wasn’t confronted with a long explanation. ‘I’m sorry, could you repeat that for me?’

“Uhmm...” Emma felt like an awkward teenager again. She shifted slightly, uncomfortably. “I was just wondering whether I could have your phone number?” Please don’t say no!

Regina’s lips parted in an “oh”-manner, and she looked a bit amused as she began tapping away on her phone once more. Soon the screen was turned towards Emma. ‘Funny you should say that. I was just about to ask for yours. I know we don’t know each other that well, but I would like to be updated on how you settle in here and how everything goes with your book and your meeting with Mal, if that’s okay?’

Emma grinned like an idiot. Yes, that would be more than okay! “I’d like that.”

Regina smiled and then she turned the screen, tapped, turned the screen again and showed Emma that she was making a new contact. She indicated that she was ready to add Emma’s number to her contacts, and Emma quickly gave the brunette her number. She felt all kinds of warm and excited when she saw Regina carefully add the number to her contacts.

“So... Can I have yours?” Emma asked.

Regina didn’t answer. Instead she tapped some more on her phone, and soon Emma felt her own phone vibrate in her pocket.

Regina chuckled a bit, and Emma did the same when she quickly connected the dots. “Thanks.”

Regina offered a slight nod, and Emma saw her dark eyes flicker towards the door. Emma immediately understood that Regina wanted to get back to her son, and the blonde quickly said: “well, I should probably go upstairs and check out that room.”

Regina nodded once more.

“Thanks for keeping me company during the train ride,” Emma said earnestly. “I was afraid of ending up next to someone.... not nice.”

Regina smiled and bowed her head slightly. Then she shrugged in a “it was my pleasure”-way. It was fascinating, really. Emma had never been one for paying much attention to body language. At least not until now.

Sensing that time was more than up, Emma said: “well.... Goodbye then. I guess I’ll... See you around? For coffee like we talked about?”

Regina nodded and pointed lightly to Emma’s phone and then back to her own.

Emma immediately understood. “Yeah. I’ll text you.”

Regina smiled again, offered Emma another nod, and then she turned around and walked towards the door. This time Emma let her leave without calling out to her, but the blonde definitely felt sad when she watched Regina walk away. Maybe that was the whole problem. Maybe she shouldn’t indulge in the self-torture it was to watch Regina walk away. Emma spun around on her heels and walked up the wooden staircase.

She easily found room number seven. The door was left ajar, and Emma found Eugenia inside the room. The elderly woman was currently grumbling under her breath as she angrily wiped at a spot on the wooden desk in the far left corner.

Emma looked around in the room. It was modest, yes, but also incredibly cozy. In the right corner stood a bed with a cutesy flower printed bedspread. The wallpaper was the same grey forest motive as the one in the restaurant downstairs. There was a wooden desk, a nightstand and a dresser. Emma found it to be absolutely perfect.

Eugenia turned around and smiled as she met Emma’s eyes. “Well, there isn’t much room in here, but...”

“It’s perfect,” Emma interrupted and smiled at the woman. “Absolutely perfect.”

Eugenia returned the smile. “There’s a bathroom just down the hall. Both shower and bath, and there isn’t anyone living here at the moment, so you’ll have it all to yourself.”

“Sounds good.”

Eugenia nodded towards the window. “I’ve opened the window. The room was a bit cluttered. And I’ve left you some fresh towels in the dresser. I’ll leave you to unpack, but if you need anything, I’ll be right downstairs.”

“Perfect. Thank you.”

Eugenia smiled and then left.

Emma quickly grabbed her backpack and began to unpack. It didn’t take very long. All she needed to do was to put her clothes away in the dresser and then find a place to plug in her laptop.

Once that was done, Emma lied down on the bed. Her intention had been to get a five minute long powernap, but when she woke up, a half an hour had passed. Emma felt completely groggy. Going right back to sleep had been tempting, but instead of doing that, Emma forced herself out of bed. She opened the drawer and found her sweatpants, tanktop and clean underwear. Then she found a large, fluffy, white towel and headed into the bathroom.

The hot water helped some. Emma felt a bit less sleepy when she switched the water off and wrenched water out of her hair. She had forgotten her hairbrush in the room, but she had brought a hair tie.

She wrapped the towel around herself as she pulled her hair back into a messy bun on top of her head. Then she toweled herself off and put on the fresh set of clothes.

Emma inspected her face in the mirror. She looked a bit tired. But hopefully nothing a night of sleep wouldn’t help with. Emma wanted to be perky tomorrow. She had many things to attend to. She had to call Malena from Dragon Publishing. That was important. And she wanted to go for a walk in Steveston. Get a little familiar with her surroundings. Zelena’s “guided tour” had been fine, but it had been pitch black when they arrived. Emma was looking forward to seeing the place in brought daylight.

After having tucked a few strand locks of hair behind her ears, Emma grabbed the towel and returned to her own room.

She left the towel on the radiator so it could dry, and then Emma closed the window. Maybe it was a bit cluttered in here, but it was a pretty chilly night. Emma didn’t want to freeze. She looked at the bed.
That was a very comfortable bed. Emma couldn’t wait to climb into it later and get some proper shuteye.

That was when her stomach growled. Languidly and insistently. Emma could suddenly feel how hungry she was. She had actually intended on settling down for the evening. Maybe write a bit, call Ella and then call it a night. But it seemed like her stomach had other plans. Plans that involved eating. Emma sighed quietly. She really was a bottomless pit. A bottomless pit that needed to be filled. She couldn’t just move along with her plans. She had to eat.

Emma left her room and padded down the hallway. She wasn’t particularly excited about the fact that she had to leave her room in sweatpants and with wet hair, but she was too tired to change her clothes. And to hungry. She had seen some pretty delicious cakes on display at the front desk. She knew she should be opting for something healthy, but those cakes were simply too delicious looking.
Emma had to try one.

The restaurant was empty when she came downstairs. Emma was just about to call out when she heard voices from the backroom. Two voices. Emma was able identify one of them. Ruby. She didn’t know who the other voice belonged to, but it was definitely a woman’s voice, and as far as Emma could determine, the woman had to be roughly at the same age as Ruby. So maybe it was a fellow waitress or one of Ruby’s friends. Emma could also hear the faint scraping sound of boxes being shuffled around in the backroom. Emma moved towards the desk and was just about to ring the little bell when she heard a snippet of the conversation that made her stop and listen instead:

“-And was that really Regina’s Mercedes I saw drive away when I came round the corner?”

“Yep,” Ruby confirmed. “She had recommended this place to a woman and was just here to drop her off.”

“So she’s going back to Vancouver?” the other female voice asked.

“Seems like it,” Ruby said and panted slightly. Emma heard more scuffling. Boxes being moved around.

“And how is she doing?” the unknown female inquired.

The shuffling stopped. “She’s the same,” Ruby said after a moment of hesitation.

A low thud as though someone was sitting down heavily on a box. Then the other female spoke again: “really? So she’s still- I mean, she still can’t-“

“Nope,” Ruby said shortly.

Emma heard a sigh. “I feel so sorry for her,” the other female said. “It must be awful to just-“

BANG! The rest of the sentence drowned when a door on the left was slammed open. Eugenia Wolf emerged and walked straight into the backroom without announcing herself. She didn’t even see Emma, and a moment later Emma heard the elderly woman bark: “that’s enough! I’m paying you two to work not gossip!”

“Sorry,” the unknown female mumbled.

“Yeah sorry, Granny,” Ruby said.

Emma’s head was swimming with thoughts, and even though she didn’t like gossip, she would have done almost everything to hear the rest of that conversation. ‘She’s the same.’ She still can’t’.... Can’t what? Talk? Was that what their conversation was about What does it mean? Had Regina been away to have something done about her missing voice? Was that what was going on? Or had Emma misunderstood the conversation completely?

Emma heard Eugenia mutter something under her breath, and the blonde finally remembered what she came here to do. She pushed the bell once, and Eugenia immediately emerged from the backroom. She was all smiles as she asked Emma if there was something she could help with.

Emma got her cake, thanked Eugenia and then went back upstairs to her room.

As she munched on her cake, Emma checked her phone and smiled when she saw the text Regina had send her a while ago. It was her number. Emma considered to send a thank you in return, but it was pretty late now. Maybe Regina was asleep.

Emma put her phone down and sat down on the bed. She took another bite of the cake and wondered about the conversation she had just overheard. It seemed as though the mystery was deepening with each day that went by. Emma frowned as she quickly thought about what she knew about Regina. She knew that Regina couldn’t speak. She knew that the brunette wasn’t born like that. She knew that there had been some sort of accident. Emma thought of the way not only Henry but also Eugenia and Ruby had hugged Regina. They hadn’t seen her in a while. Had Regina been away? Did her absence have anything to do with her missing voice? Had she been away to have her voice restored? Did other people know what had happened to Regina? Emma considered it. There had been something in the way Eugenia had looked at Regina. Something in her eyes. Emma had a hunch that Eugenia Wolf knew what had happened to Regina.

Emma swallowed the last piece of cake and flopped back on the bed. She pushed a lock of wet hair away from her face. Then she filled her lungs with air and puffed the air out. Would she even be able to fall asleep now? Or was there a chance that Regina Mills would roam around in her head all night?

Yeah, probably...........

 

To Be Continued...........