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To Hear Her Voice In The Silence

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To say that Emma was nervous the next day would be grossly understated. She was more than nervous. In fact she felt a teeny tiny bit nauseous.

Suddenly, meeting Malena Fiammetta was the scariest thing in the world. Emma was well aware that Malena only had agreed to meet her because she knew Regina, and now Emma was very adamant to show Malena that she actually could do stuff. She didn’t want to be considered for a job just because she knew Regina. She wanted to be chosen based on the things she could do, and not anything else.

Obviously, Emma had already emailed her manuscript to Dragon Publishing. At least that was out of her hands. All she could do was sit back, wait and keep writing to finish the thing while Malena and the other employees at Dragon Publishing evaluated her manuscript.

But the upcoming meeting with Malena.... Damn, Emma was nervous about that. She had fallen asleep really, really late last night, and then she had been wide awake at four, convinced that she had overslept and was now late for the meeting.

And the anxiety hadn’t lessened one bit this morning either. Emma had wrestled with her hair until it was falling in soft curls around her face. Then she had roamed through her dresser (and made a mess!) and found the only skirt she owned. A neat, suede black skirt that looked pretty nice paired with her wine red sweater. She almost looked professional when she wore that outfit. She looked like someone who could potentially work at a publishing house, and not as a waitress.

Emma ran two fingers through her hair and glanced nervously at her phone again. She still had some time at her hand before she had to leave. The problem was that she had no idea what to do with that time. She had carefully studied the route to Dragon Publishing, and she had found a bus that could take her from Steveston and all the way to her destination. Emma only had embark on a two minute walk, and then she would be there.

Emma stared at the phone in her hand. She knew what she wanted to do. She wanted to text Regina again. But she wasn’t sure whether she could do that or not. She and Regina had texted for so long last night. Emma didn’t want the brunette to find her obnoxious or stalkerish. Emma was not Mary Margaret.

Speaking of Mary Margaret, Emma hadn’t heard anything from her, and that certainly made for a nice change. Waking up and finding that her adoptive mother hadn’t called a million times had given her a boost of energy. Emma hoped that the change had come to stay. She felt free. She hoped that changing her number wouldn’t be necessary like she had feared. And maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t. Maybe
Mary Margaret would finally give up on her crazy ways. Maybe she had finally learned that she couldn’t make Emma love her by clinging on too tightly to her.

Emma nervously gnawed at a fingernail. A newly manicured fingernail. Damn it. Now she would have to re-do her nail polish. The blonde grumbled under her breath as she stomped into the bathroom to somehow repair the damage.

Ten minutes later, Emma was sitting on the bathroom floor, cursing under her breath as she tried to scrub the red nail polish off the floor. Emma wasn’t completely sure whether her hands had been trembling, or it had just been her usual clumsiness, but either way she had ended up spilling some of the nail polish on the bathroom floor, and now here she was, armed with cotton buds and nail polish remover. She scrubbed so hard at the floor it squeaked slightly under her ministrations. Emma was still muttering complains under her breath when she heard something that made her pause for a second.

A faint scratching sound against the wooden dresser. It only took Emma a few seconds to realize it was her phone making noise. She had gotten a text. Emma’s jaw clenched as she imagined it being Mary Margaret trying to reach out to her again. The blonde had actually had a bit of a nightmare about Mary Margaret last night. It had been a crazy dream in which Mary Margaret had showed up in Steveston and banged on Emma’s door, screaming to be let in. That was what had caused Emma to wake up at four in the morning, first in a frenzy because she for a moment thought that Mary Margaret was actually here, and then panicking all over again when she thought that she had overslept. It had taken her a while to calm down. She had taken lots of deep breaths as she had reminded herself that Mary Margaret had no idea where she was, and her appointment with Malena Fiammetta wasn’t until eleven. She had plenty of time.

Emma wiped the floor once last time and then rose from her kneeling position to “admire” her work. The bathroom tiles looked a bit reddish, but Emma was certain no one would be able to tell the difference. A good thing I didn’t go with pink nail polish. She turned her back on the reddish tiles and went back into her little bedroom. Now it was time to see what Mary Margaret wanted this time.

But it didn’t take her long to figure out that it wasn’t Mary Margaret who had texted her. A smile spread on Emma’s face, and warmth coursed through her veins as she read the text: ‘I just wanted to wish you good luck with your meeting today. I do hope I’m not bothering you. Don’t let Mal intimidate you.’

Emma almost snorted. Did Regina seriously think she was bothering her? The blonde shook her head in pure disbelief. The thought alone was totally absurd. She quickly texted back: ‘you are not bothering me at all! Thank you for wishing me good luck, I really appreciate that since I’m pretty nervous.’

A text immediately arrived, and Emma read is just as quick: ‘I’m sorry to hear you’re feeling a bit nervous. I hope you don’t feel that way because of what I said about Mal. Really, she’s not that bad. She’ll warm up to you soon enough. Just talk Stephen King to her, and you should be fine.’

Emma chuckled at that. ‘Thanks for the heads up! I’ll try that. Does she have a favorite book in particular?’

Again, the response came immediately. ‘Well, if you really want to impress her, talk about Bag of Bones. That’s her favorite Stephen King novel.’

Emma fingers danced over the screen as she texted back: ‘I’ll do that. You know her pretty well, don’t you? Malena, I mean.’ That wasn’t a prying question was it?

Before Emma could get the chance to decide whether it was a prying question or not, Regina texted back, and Emma checked the message: ‘Yes, we’ve known each other since high school. But unfortunately it’s been a while since I last saw her.’

Emma nodded to herself. That made sense. That explained Malena’s sudden enthusiasm when Emma had mentioned Regina’s name. Emma ran a couple of fingers through her hair once more. So Regina hadn’t seen Malena for a while either. That seemed to be an ongoing theme. Something had kept her away from her friends in Steveston, and from her old friend Malena. Emma wondered what that ‘something’ was. The accident, perhaps? Emma considered it. Yes, that could very well be the reason. She felt her curiosity bubble just below the surface once more, and for the millionth time Emma felt as though she was going crazy. The mystery surrounding Regina was driving her nuts.

Then she remembered that Regina was waiting for her to text back. Emma quickly pulled herself together and texted: ‘well, maybe you’ll be able to see her soon?’

The response came immediately and was ultrashort. ‘Maybe’.

Emma frowned a bit. Had she just made Regina upset by asking such a question? God, she hoped that wasn’t the case! She wasn’t completely sure what to text in response, so she put the phone down on the dresser, hoping that she hadn’t upset Regina. She wondered what the brunette was doing right now. Was she sitting with a book in her lap, or was she perhaps with her son? Henry. Emma smiled a little. He had seemed like a very sweet kid. Very smart, and clearly very, very fond of his mother. Seeing how tightly he had clutched Regina’s hand and how he had never stopped looking away from her, had actually been quite touching to witness. Normally, Emma wasn’t one for tears, but there had been something about seeing mother and son reunite after what Emma assumed was a longer period of time.

The blonde turned her phone screen upwards so she could keep an eye on the time. She still had some time left before she had to leave. Unfortunately. Her stomach was tying in knots.

How she managed to pass the time until it was time to go out and find a bus, involved a good amount of crappy television and running to the bathroom because her bladder tricked her into believing that she had to pee. It was driving her insane, and she was relieved when she finally could grab the little purse, she had bought this morning and head out of her room.

Once downstairs, she found Ruby in the middle of wiping one of the tables clean. The brunette waitress was chewing gum and loudly smacking her lips while doing so. Emma glanced at her for just a millisecond and wondered how one got enough guts to bend over while wearing such a short skirt. Seriously, what Ruby was doing was pretty damn ballsy. Emma took a second to brush a hand over her red sweater. She shifted slightly on her feet, and the little movement easily caught Ruby’s attention. The brunette waitress straightened her posture and turned around. She smiled when she spotted Emma: “hey. You all ready to head out?”

“Yeah, I think so,” Emma nodded.

“You look nice,” Ruby smiled. “Good luck today.”

“Yeah. Thanks,” Emma said and returned the smile. But she secretly thought that she had to do something about Ruby’s growing crush on her. Nothing drastically. Just a subtle way of telling the waitress that she wasn’t interested.

Emma’s stomach tied in knots but for very different reasons when she thought about the person, she was interested in. The person who could come to Steveston in two weeks. Emma knew that she shouldn’t be thinking about her and Regina’s coffee appointment as a date, but Emma couldn’t help it. A bit of wistful thinking, and it could just as easily have been a date.

“Emma?”

The blonde quickly blinked and looked up. She had been zoning out. As so often before when she thought about Regina.

“You’re going to miss your bus,” Ruby kindly pointed out and smiled a little.

Emma quickly snapped out of it. Right. Her bus. Pull yourself together, Swan. You have to be there on time and give the impression that you’re this insanely, professional, driven person. If you do that, you
can think as much as you want about Regina when you get home. But right now, first things first.

Emma said goodbye to Ruby and returned the smile. The waitress looked so happy, Emma instantly felt guilty. Smiling too warmly definitely categorized under “giving false hope”. But right now Emma couldn’t do anything about that. She had places to be. The blonde left the inn and quickly walked down Main Street towards the bus stop. She passed the library on the way and saw Isabelle. The brunette waved to Emma, and Emma waved back. Smiled when Isabelle yelled “good luck!” Emma had no idea how everyone in town knew that she had a job interview today, but the thought of returning home to Steveston without actually having gotten the job made her feel even more nauseous than before. It felt as thought everyone’s eyes were upon her.

Emma had far too much energy to actually sit down on the bus bench. She ended up pacing back and forward and scraping her shoes slightly until the bus arrived. Emma felt that even the smile the bus driver flashed her seemed way too optimistic and loaded with “you can do this”. Emma anxiously bit the inside of her cheek as she plopped down on one of the seats in the bus. Could she though? The only job interviews she had been do was for waitressing, and Emma had a horrible feeling that this was gonna be so much more difficult.......

 

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

 

Reaching her destination didn’t exactly make her feel more at ease. Emma gawked as she tilted her head back and looked up at the enormous, red building. The building was surrounded by a large, iron fence with a medieval looking gate in the middle. It wasn’t exactly and “push-pull”-gate. It looked ridiculously complicated. Emma felt intimidated, and even more so by the two large dragon statues that guarded the door. I can’t believe I’m actually going in there. Emma shook her head. It seemed unrealistic.

But nevertheless true. Emma swallowed, straightened her posture and then marched over to the large gate. It creaked when forced open, and Emma almost jumped at the sound. Right now, anything was enough to scare her. Especially the way the two dragon statues glared at her. It seemed as though they were judging her. And deeming her unworthy. Emma glared back at the dragons and went inside the building.

The inside of the building didn’t do anything to soothe Emma’s anxiety either. Everything was white, clinical and oozing of professionalism. Emma thought to herself that she was gonna need a map not to get lost here. There were a million of elevators, a million different hallways that all seemed to lead different places. Emma snorted quietly as she exited elevator number three and stalked down a hallway to the left. There had been a moment where she had thought that this was just a little publishing company. Think again, Swan. Think again.

Finally, Emma reached what appeared to be some sort of front desk. A beautiful dark skinned woman with her hair in a bun was sitting behind the desk, tapping away on a keyboard. Emma quietly cleared her throat.

The woman looked up, and now Emma saw the little golden and shiny nametag attached to her blouse. “Ursula Clearwater”, the nametag said. “Yes?” the woman- Ursula- said. “How can I help you, miss...?”

“Swan. Emma Swan. I’m here to see Mrs. Fiammetta,” Emma said.

“Ah yes,” Ursula said and seemed a bit amused as she tapped something on the keyboard. “You have an appointment at eleven, isn’t that right?”

“That’s right,” Emma confirmed with a nod.

“Well, if you could just take a seat over there-“ Ursula pointed to a leather sofa that was standing leaned against the white wall. “Mrs. Fiammetta will be right there.”

“Great. Thanks,” Emma said and stalked over to the leather sofa in the corner.

The blonde instantly regretted that she had chosen to wear nylon stockings and a skirt. The leather was sticking uncomfortably to the back of her thighs, even through her skirt Emma could feel it. For a moment she wasn’t even worried about meeting Malena Fiammetta. Right now, her main concern was leaving ass marks on this couch that probably had costed more than Emma’s college education.

The blonde saw how Ursula leaned forward and pressed a little button and quietly said: “your eleven o’clock appointment is here.” Emma immediately heard Malena Fiammetta voice say: “excellent. I won’t be a moment.”

Emma swallowed something, and to quell her anxiety, she looked around in the highly modern and posh room. The desk Ursula Clearwater was sitting behind was of mahogany. The little dragon figures standing on the desk was most likely made of gold. Oh my god, what am I even doing here? Emma nervously crossed her legs, rested one ankle on top of the other. For once reminding herself to sit like a lady. To be a little refined. Emma suddenly got a flashback of Mary Margaret shouting at her because she refused to sit with her legs crossed. Not that Emma had anything against sitting with her legs crossed, but it had seemed to annoy Mary Margaret endlessly, and so Emma had grown even more determined to sit however she pleased.

Emma fidgeted with her hands in her lap. Ursula was still tapping away on the laptop, and right now the sound seemed alarmingly. It made Emma all the more nervous. The sound almost echoed in her ears.

After another painful five minutes, Ursula Clearwater looked up from the laptop. “Miss Swan? Malena is ready now.”

Emma immediately jumped to her feet.

“Her office is just up the stairs and to your left,” Ursula said. “It’s the first door.”

Emma offered a small smile and a squeaky “thank you”.

Her knees felt like jelly as she walked up the stairs, and her hands trembled slightly as she held on to the handrail. Soon she was walking down the hallway, and the heels she had forced her feet into for once clacked too loudly against the floor.

She reached the first door on her left and took an unnecessary second to look at the golden sign on the door “Malena Fiammetta.” No doubt she had come to the right place. Emma swallowed something, wetted her lips and then raised her hand. She gave three quick raps on the door and immediately cringed. The sound was too loud. It echoed in the quiet hallway.

“Come in,” the voice Emma had heard over the phone said, and Emma swallowed something again as she opened the door.

This was a real boss office. All dark colors, heavy mahogany desk in the middle of the room. Gold framed newspaper clips about the company on the wall, pictures of authors proudly showing off their freshly published books. Pictures of Malena Fiammetta shaking hands with important looking people. Emma glanced out of the window. A stunning, almost panoramic view. And bookshelf after bookshelf filled with books. The bookshelves were held in dark colors. Emma looked down and noticed the blood red carpet on the floor. She looked up again and noticed all the little dragon statues everywhere in the office. On the bookshelves, on the desk, hell there was even a few larger ones on the floor. Malena Fiammetta clearly had a thing for dragons.

“Be a dear and close the door.”

Emma immediately snapped out of it and closed the door. Then she turned around and finally looked at the woman sitting behind the desk. The woman she had barely noticed when she first stepped in here because of how impressive this office was.

But now Emma looked at Malena Fiammetta. Really looked. And what she saw didn’t exactly help her anxiety. Yep. Definitely intimidating. Oh my god. Of course Malena Fiammetta had a look to go with the smooth, professional voice Emma had heard on the phone yesterday. Emma gulped as she looked at the woman sitting behind the desk. Malena Fiammetta’s blonde hair were styled and pinned in perfect 1940’s curls. She was wearing a neat, grey suit. Grey pants and a grey blazer to match. Underneath the blazer she was wearing a black blouse with strings she had tied into an almost unnatural perfect bow. She had little diamond studs in her ears, her lips were painted a dark shade of red, and her blazer was adorned with an expensive looking dragon brooch. Her eyebrows were neatly plucked and styled, and she looked just a bit calculating as she looked at Emma with crystal blue eyes. She rose from the chair behind the desk, and Emma felt all sorts of nervous when she approached her.

“Emma Swan, I suppose?” Malena said.

“Yeah,” Emma said, but then sobered up and corrected: “yes. I’m Emma Swan.”

“Pleasure to meet you. I’m Malena Fiammetta. Mal among friends,” Malena said as she extended a hand out towards Emma.

Emma shook Malena’s hand and noted that the other woman had a surprisingly strong grip.

“Do sit down, miss Swan,” Malena said and pointed to a chair on the other side of the desk. “Would you like a cup of coffee?”

“Coffee sounds good,” Emma said as she sat down and tried to be as elegant as possible as she crossed her legs.

Malena went round her desk and pressed a button. A moment later Emma heard Ursula Clearwater ask if she could do anything. Malena asked Ursula to bring coffee for herself and Emma.

“So miss Swan,” Malena said as she sat down in her “boss chair” once more. “Firstly, we’ve received your manuscript. I’m sure you’re happy to hear that I already have people reading and evaluating it.”

“Alright. That’s good to hear,” Emma said.

“But I can understand you’d also be interested in a job here?”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“During the phone call yesterday, you said that you’ve never worked for a publishing house before, but you mentioned having the proper education for the job,” Malena said. “Would you care to elaborate that?”

Okay. Clearly a straight-to-the-point kind of woman. Emma actually didn’t mind that. Small talk had always made her feel oddly nervous. Malena’s “no nonsense”-attitude helped with her anxiety. “I have a bachelor’s in literature,” the blonde said, now feeling more happy than ever that she had resisted Mary Margaret’s attempts at pressuring her into pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education.

“Not a master’s degree?”

“No,” Emma said.

“I see,” Malena answered. “Would you ever consider pursuing a master’s degree in literature?”

“The thought have crossed my mind,” Emma admitted. “But up until now, I haven’t really had the opportunity. Things have been a bit... chaotic.”

Malena nodded a bit. “I see. May I ask what your parents are doing?”

“Adoptive parents,” Emma corrected and blushed a bit. The correction was a force of habit.

“Adoptive parents,” Malena amended.

“My adoptive mother is the headmistress of Blanchard’s Boarding School,” Emma said. “And my father is in the police force.”

“Blanchard’s Boarding School?” Malena repeated and raised an eyebrow. “Yes, I believe I’ve heard of that place.”

Emma felt cautiously optimistic. Was Malena by any chance impressed?

“Well, the fact that you have a bachelor’s in literature certainly speaks to your advantage, miss Swan,” Malena said. “But I am however concerned by the fact that you’ve never worked for a publishing house
before. I would have liked to see some references.”

Emma’s hope faltered. “I can understand that.”

The door opened and Ursula came inside with a filled trey. Two cups of coffee, milk, sugar and two small cakes.

“Thank you dear,” Malena said.

Ursula flashed her a smile and then left the office again.

“Have a cup of coffee, miss Swan,” Malena said.

Emma immediately did as encouraged, and as she took a sip, she glanced around at the many different dragons’ figures that were everywhere in the office.

“Gifts,” Malena said as she followed Emma’s gaze. “From the people I’ve helped publishing a book.”

“Must have been a big book,” Emma said before she could stop herself as she looked at the largest dragon statue in the room. It was an impressive piece of art. Green, shiny “scales” and enormous wings spread out. The dragon was so large it was almost the same height as the desk. And clearly Malena’s favorite, given how central in the room it was placed.

Malena chuckled slightly. “That one was actually given to me as a present when I opened the publishing house. It’s from our mutual friend.”

Emma raised an eyebrow. “Regina?” she guessed.

“Quite so,” Malena nodded and took a sip of her coffee. “She’s a very dear friend of mine, and I’m assuming she’s one of yours too now?”

Not as dear as I want her to be. “Well, yeah,” Emma said and nodded.

Malena’s crystal blue eyes gleamed with something that could only be described as curiosity. “May I ask how you and Regina met?”

“We met during a three day long train ride from Toronto to Vancouver,” Emma said truthfully.

“I see,” Malena said. “So she’s in Vancouver now?”

“Yes,” Emma nodded.

“And do you happen to know if she’s planning on staying there permanently?” Malena asked.

“I... I think so?” Emma said and wondered why she was filling Malena in on Regina’s whereabouts. “I mean, I saw her with her son and her sister, so it looked pretty permanent to me.”

“This is wonderful news,” Malena said, and her red lips curved up in a smile. For a moment she seemed like she had lost track of her thoughts, but then she sobered up and said: “do apologize these irrelevant questions, miss Swan, but Regina and I are old friends, and I do so worry about her wellbeing. You see, we haven’t seen each other for a while.”

“It’s completely fine,” Emma quickly assured.

“It’s nice to know that she’s doing well,” Malena said. “But any way.... back to business. Tell me, miss Swan, do you enjoy reading?”

“Yes,” Emma said slightly surprised. “Of course I do.”

“Would you say that you are good at judging whether a storyline is good or not?” Malena asked.

“Yes,” Emma nodded. “I think so.”

“The reason I’m asking is because we currently need someone to read through the manuscripts submitted to us,” Malena said. “We received so many manuscripts, and we’re starting to feel the pressure.
One of the things we take pride in, is reading all the manuscripts submitted to us.” She glanced at Emma. “Are you a fast reader, miss Swan?”

“Yes,” Emma said immediately. Reading fast was one of the things she often had gotten in trouble for at school. Often the teachers had refused to believe that she had finished a book that fast. Many, many times she had been accused at cheating.

“Hmm,” Malena said and squinted slightly as she looked at Emma with her crystal blue eyes. It seemed as though she was considering what to do.

Emma almost held her breath in anticipation. Please, please, give me a chance!

“You do of course understand that I can’t hire you as this company’s official publisher’s reader,” Malena said. “Your lack of experience prevents me from doing so.”

Emma felt her heart plummet.

“But,” Malena continued. “I’m a very firm believer that everyone should be given the opportunity to prove their worth, so...”

This time, Emma did hold her breath.

“You will be given tasks to do,” Malena said. “And manuscripts to read now and then, but your official job description will be to help out wherever you can.”

“That’s fine,” Emma said immediately. I’m willing to do anything. Fetch coffee. Scrub the floor. Hell, I’ll even scrub the toilets.

“In that case, you can start next Wednesday,” Malena said.

Emma stared at the sophisticated blonde woman. “You’re... You’re giving me the job?”

“Yes, miss Swan. I’m giving you the job,” Malena confirmed. “You may be inexperienced, but we all started somewhere, am I right?” she rose from her seat and extended her hand out towards Emma.

Emma rose from her own chair and shook Malena’s hand once. Malena wished her a good day, and that was a pretty clear indicator that the conversation was over, but Emma still had one more thing to say.

“Can I ask you something?” the blonde asked.

“Certainly,” Malena said. “Ask away.”

“Am I... Are you giving me this chance because I know Regina?” Emma asked.

Malena’s crystal blue gaze snapped up to Emma’s face, and Emma blushed ever so slightly.

“No,” Malena said. “I’m giving you this chance because I have a good feeling about you, miss Swan.”

“Okay,” Emma murmured and turned to walk towards the door. It was better to leave before she ended up saying something stupid. But before she could get the chance to open the door and leave, Malena spoke again.

“If Regina advised you to contact me, it means she has faith in you,” the older blonde said. “And whoever Regina has faith in... I have faith in too. I valuate and respect her opinion very, very much.”

“Okay,” Emma said again. It was impossible to not pick up on the warmth Malena’s voice gained when she spoke of Regina.

“Regina is a gem,” Malena said as she rose from her chair. “And I’m suspecting you’ll turn out to be too, miss Swan. A diamond in the rough. Now I think you better be on your way. There’s a bus to Steveston in ten minutes. I wouldn’t want you to miss that.”

Emma nodded and once again headed towards the door. She pulled it open and had literally one foot out of the door when Malena said: “oh, and miss Swan?”

“Yes?” Emma said.

“You can call me Malena or Mal. Or even the Dragon if you find me irritating,” Malena said and flashed Emma a teasing smile. “But for the love of god, never refer to me as Mrs. Fiammetta. Is that clear?”

“Crystal,” Emma said and chuckled a bit.

“Excellent. Now run along.”

That was exactly what Emma did. And she grinned all the way down the hallway. She couldn’t quite believe this. She had gotten a job. She had actually gotten a job. She wasn’t a waitress anymore! She couldn’t wait to tell Ella about it. And Regina.

‘I’ve got a job!’

Emma had sent that text to two different people. Ella and Regina. She knew that it would be a few hours before Ella was gonna answer. Ella was currently at work at that diner where Emma used to work too. Emma was satisfied with knowing that Ella would reply later, but she had found herself unable to stop patting her pocket and check if her phone was vibrating all throughout the bus ride back to Steveston. She so wanted to hear from Regina. She had tried to tell herself that Regina could be busy right now, but it had been in vain. Emma wouldn’t stop obsessing until Regina answered her.

The blonde leaned back in the bus seat. This ride was much more rattling that the train ride from Toronto to Vancouver had been. That had probably spoiled her. From now on she would compare every train and bus ride to the luxury trip she had been on. Emma glanced at the man in the seat across her. He had just coughed in a most unflattering way, and now he was shamelessly staring at her stocking clad legs. Seriously, he wasn’t even trying to hide it or anything. Emma pursed her lips. She would compare this ride to her luxury train ride, and she would definitely compare all the passengers to Regina.

Emma almost chuckled when she realized that she most likely wouldn’t have minded if Regina had been staring at her legs during the train ride. But Regina hadn’t stared at her legs. Unfortunately. Her focus had solely been on Emma’s face, and under normal circumstances, Emma would have applauded that, but now it just frustrated her. Had there just been the slightest sign that Regina was a teeny tiny bit interested in her. As more than a friend. Emma gnawed at a nail. She and Regina had shared a lot of jokes during their trip, and they had had many conversations about all kinds of subjects, and there had been a hell of a lot eye contact, but did that categorize as flirting, or was it just simple conversation? Argh. Emma hated this. She had to be the worst lesbian ever. Or at least the worst at deducing whether another women liked this or that.

She would have to make an effort when she saw Regina again. She would dissect every sentence the brunette wrote. She would pay attention to any mention of a father. There has to be a father, right?

Kids don’t just pop out on their own. But then again, maybe there wasn’t a father. Maybe Henry was a donor child. Or adopted. Maybe Regina had decided to have a child all on her own. Emma’s brow furrowed as she once again considered it. Or maybe there had been a father. Maybe he had died during a tragic accident. The same accident that robbed Regina of her voice.

Emma shook her head. And now she was back to the mystery surrounding Regina’s missing voice. Why did she always come back to that? Her imagination went into overdrive as she considered a million different ways how it could have happened. One reason more unrealistic than the other.

It was raining a bit when Emma arrived back in Steveston. She was grateful that Eugenia’s Inn wasn’t that far away from the busstop. The blonde half-ran as she made it back to the Inn. She wasn’t interested in getting her rather nice outfit wet.

Inside the inn, she saw Ruby. This time the brunette was in the middle of serving coffee for two guests who had taken shelter from the rain.

“Hi,” the brunette grinned when she spotted Emma. “How did the job thingy go?”

“I got the job,” Emma said, offering a small smile.

“Really? That’s awesome news!” Ruby said. “Do you want to go out and celebrate it sometimes?”

“Yeah, maybe,” Emma said a bit cautiously. A casual drink. That’s all. No false hope. Make sure she knows that it’s only as friends. It’s not a date.

“Cool,” Ruby said and grinned again. “I’m glad things are working out for ya, Swan.”

“Thanks,” Emma said.

“Coffee?” Ruby offered. “Or a cup of hot chocolate with cinnamon? On the house.”

“Maybe later,” Emma replied. “I think I wanna go upstairs and change out of this clothes first.” It was only a partial apology.

“Oh, okay,” Ruby said. She sounded pretty disappointed.

Emma cringed slightly as she turned around and walked up the stairs and down the hall towards her own room. If this continued, she would have to do something about the Ruby situation. She couldn’t let
the waitress go around and hope for something more than friendship. It really wasn’t fair of her.

Emma reached her own room. She unlocked the door and went inside. She carefully attached her phone to the charger, and then she reached within her dresser to find a pair of jeans and a tanktop. Then she went inside the bathroom to change out of the skirt and sweater. And wipe some of the makeup off.

Emma tied her hair back into a ponytail, and then she brushed a hand over her tanktop. She hoped that Malena wouldn’t mind if she went to work in this clothes. Even though she had tried to make an effort today, Emma wasn’t a skirt or dress type of person. Wearing a dress or a skirt always made her feel awkward and gangly. However odd it sounded, she always felt way more feminine and confident in her jeans and tanktops. Obviously, Mary Margaret had condemned her choice of wardrobe, and more than once she had thrown the tomboy label at Emma. But Emma didn’t see herself as a tomboy. She simply saw herself as a woman who wasn’t particularly comfortable in dresses or skirts. That was all. Simple as that.

As Emma was carefully wiping some of her lipstick off, she heard a faint scratching sound. It only took her three seconds to realize that it was her phone. She had just received a message.

Emma immediately abandoned removing her lipstick and went straight back into her bedroom. She picked up her phone and then grinned from ear to ear as she read the newly arrived message: ‘that’s wonderful news, Emma! I’m so happy for you.’

Regina was happy for her. Emma momentarily forgot how to breathe as she texted back: ‘thank you! Ugh, I was so nervous when I left, but now... I feel like I could climb a mountain or something.’

The reply came immediately, and Emma read it: ‘I must say, I had been fearing that Mal would be hard on you. I’m glad she chose not to live up to the nickname I once gave her.’

Emma’s eyebrow rose in curiosity, and her next message reflected that: ‘and what nickname is that?’

The phone made a “vrr!” sound against her palm as the answer arrived. ‘Maleficent.’

Emma spluttered quietly. Maleficent. Not bad. ‘Creative nickname, but she was definitely no Maleficent today. Nor was she a dragon.’

The answer came quickly. ‘I’m happy to hear that.’

Eager to keep the conversation going, Emma texted back: ‘I think I might have stepped in it a little. I accidentally called her “Mrs. Fiammetta”. I don’t think she liked that.’

Not even ten seconds passed before the answer arrived, and Emma chuckled at reading the reply: ‘No, I can imagine she wasn’t particularly fond of that. Mal prides herself in never having been married.’

Are you married, Emma felt tempted to ask. Or in any other way attached to someone for that matter? But of course she didn’t ask Regina that. Instead she told the brunette that she would be starting her new job next Wednesday, thanked her for the heads up and then boldly added: ‘I’m looking forward to having coffee with you on Tuesday.’

The answer came fast and couldn’t have made Emma happier even though it was just two simple words: ‘Me too.’

 

 

 

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