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To Hear Her Voice In The Silence

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Working for Malena Fiammetta wasn’t actually very hard. Yes, the woman was definitely eccentric and a bit ice queen-ish in her behavior from time to time, but she was by no means an unreasonable boss.

On her first day there, Emma mostly trailed after Ursula Clearwater in an attempt to get familiar with Dragon Publishing. On her second day there, Emma was asked to take care of some of the many emails the company received, and on her third day, she took over Ursula’s front desk job while the other woman was doing something else. So it was safe to say that her work at Dragon Publishing variated a lot, but Emma didn’t actually mind that. Nor did she mind the fact that she had been asked to make coffee a few times. This was not like being a waitress and having rude guys ask if she was on the menu too.

This was a proper, grownup job for a proper, grownup woman. Emma felt good. Everyone at Dragon Publishing had welcomed her. She didn’t feel like an outsider here.

Emma’s first week went great. She plowed through without making any mistakes such as spilling coffee or whatever. Malena mostly stayed in her office or went away on meetings.

But on the first day of Emma’s second week of working for Dragon Publishing, the older blonde suddenly poked her head out of her office, waved Emma inside and presented her with a thick manuscript.

“I have a good feeling about this manuscript,” she said as she put on her hat and scarf. “Be a dear and read this and then tell me if I’m right when I come back from my meeting.”

“Seriously?” Emma asked, dumbfounded over her new responsibility.

“Yes dear,” Malena said and flashed her a little smile as she handed Emma said manuscript. “You can stay in Ursula’s office while you read. She won’t be there for the rest of the day.”

“Great,” Emma said, still slightly overwhelmed. “I mean- thanks.”

“Don’t thank me, miss Swan. Read the manuscript,” Malena said, and then she disappeared out of the door.

Emma stared dumbfounded after her, but then she awakened from her trance and left the office with the manuscript in hand. This was her job for the day. Better get started right away. She didn’t want to disappoint Malena. She wanted to proof what a fast reader she was.

She headed into Ursula’s office and settled down in her chair. Then the blonde began reading. It didn’t take long before she was well into the story. The plot turned out to be both interesting and unique.

In the manuscript, Emma could read about a woman who wakes with a headache and then goes to work, only to find out she had been reported missing. A month ago. Emma was sucked into the story almost immediately, and if it had been solely up to her, this manuscript would definitely get the stamp of approval. She hoped that Malena would chose to publish this one. It really seemed like it had a lot of potential.

Emma quickly realized that there was no way she would be done reading this manuscript today, though. Maybe she could ask Malena permission to take the manuscript home with her and then finish it there.

As Emma sat there and read, she felt that tingle of optimism in her body. It really felt as though many things in her life was falling into place. She had a job she loved. She had gained good friends in both Isabelle Gold, Sheriff Graham Humbert, Mulan, Tindra Bell and Aurora. She lived in a nice neighborhood now. Hell, she even had her own car. After a week of taking the rattling bus from Steveston to Dragon Publishing, Emma had decided that enough was enough. And then she had walked over to Billy’s garage and bought the yellow bug. Emma Swan, queen of public transport had bought herself a car. She was slowly becoming a proper adult with a job and a car. Now all she needed was her own place to live. She couldn’t keep living in a hotel room for the rest of her life. Sooner or later, her economy would start to suffer under it. She needed to put down some roots. A proper place to live had to be one of the last things in her life falling into place. A real house.

And perhaps a date with Regina. Emma briefly looked up from the manuscript as she thought about the beautiful brunette. She had thought so much about Regina since their last meeting, and more than once she had thought about what it was that kept Regina so busy. But Emma was relieved that Regina had agreed to having coffee with her another time. Emma turned her attention back to the manuscript and tried to concentrate at the task at hand. But her thoughts quickly wandered back to Regina. Emma had a secret plan. No. It wasn’t as much as a plan as it was a dream. In a month, there would be a harvest festival in Steveston. A proper funfair with stalls where you could buy things, plenty of delicious food to eat, and carnival rides for the children. It would take place during a weekend, and the whole thing would end with a bonfire at the beach. Even though the event was still a month away, every last residence in Steveston was already talking about it. Apparently, the yearly harvest festival was a pretty big deal. Emma had a dream about inviting Regina to the harvest festival. And Henry too if he wanted. A harvest festival with carnival rides was great for a kid his age, right?

The only thing Emma struggled with was actually asking Regina. Inviting her to a harvest festival was not exactly the same as asking her to have coffee. No, inviting her to come to the harvest festival was definitely leaning towards “date”. And to be brutally honest, Emma wasn’t completely sure whether that was something Regina would be interested in or not. The brunette confused her. Emma felt slightly as though Regina was giving her “mixed signals”. The many warm smiles Regina had flashed her could mean that the brunette was interested, but it could also very well just have been nothing more than friendly smiles. Emma had no idea whether Regina was just seeing her as a friend and nothing more. A friend she could meet up with for coffee from time to time. A friend she could text when she had nothing better to do.

Emma turned another page in the manuscript. During their last meetup for coffee, Emma had really tried to pay attention to whether or not Regina had been looking at her. Well, she had. There had been plenty of eye contact between them, but Emma had pathetically hoped she would catch Regina look at her body for just a split second.

But Regina hadn’t. And Emma couldn’t for the life of her figure out whether it was because Regina was too much of a lady to engage in such behavior, or simply wasn’t interested in looking at her body. It was frustrating really. To Emma, other people had always been open books. She’d never had any problems with reading people. Until now. She couldn’t figure Regina out. She couldn’t read her. She never had any idea what the brunette was actually thinking. More than once, Emma had been tempted to just straight up ask Regina. But that idea had been nixed just as fast. She wasn’t a fumbling teenager.

Asking Regina how she felt about her over text was such a seventh grade thing to do. If Emma wanted to ask Regina that kind of question, she would damn well do it when they were face to face!

But Emma was scared of that too. She was scared of being rejected. That fear had been a part of her ever since her early childhood, and the thought of being rejected by Regina... Emma shivered involuntarily. That would be horrible. The thought of being rejected by the woman she felt so strongly about was downright nauseating. Almost dizzying. It made her heart thud painfully in her chest. This was a dilemma. Not knowing how Regina felt was awful. But asking and potentially being rejected was even worse. She could risk loosing the brunette’s friendship, and that thought was so terrible, Emma immediately banished it from her mind. Nope. Not gonna happen. Nu-uh. She refused to face a reality Regina wasn’t a part of.

And now I’ve riled myself up, Emma noted. All this thinking about Regina had made her palms sweaty. Her heart was still thrumming in her chest. Emma reminded herself that she was at work right now.

She was getting paid for reading this manuscript. Not thinking about Regina. If that had been the case, Emma would have been a millionaire by now. The blonde snorted quietly as she finally bowed her head over the manuscript and carried on with her work.

 

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

 

When Malena returned later, Emma was more than half-way into the manuscript, and she felt a bit terrible about having to stop reading when Ursula stepped inside and implied that she wanted her office back.

With the manuscript safely tugged under her arm, Emma patted down the hallway to find another reading spot. But before she could get the chance to find a place to settle down, the door to the meeting rom opened, and Malena poked her head out. “Oh, miss Swan?”

Emma stopped in her tracks. “Yes?”

“Come in here a moment,” Malena said. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

“Alright.” Emma spun around on her heels and walked over to the conference room. She slipped through the open door, and almost dropped the manuscript at what she saw.

“Miss Swan, this is Victoria De Villier,” Malena said, introducing Emma to a woman she already knew who was.

“Cruella,” the blonde woman corrected with a slight drawl and a very posh accent. She was wearing a flawless white suit, and her blonde hair was styled to perfection.

“Victoria who prefers to use her pen name at all times,” Malena indulged, now sounding slightly annoyed.

Emma was starstruck. Victoria De Villier. Victoria freaking De Villier! Writer of “Clockwise” one of Emma’s absolute favorite thrillers. She had read the book in two days, and it had taken her a week to
recover from that ending. Emma loved everything about that book. The characters were so defined, so relatable, the storyline was genius, and you were left with a rather ominous feeling throughout the book. But in Emma’s opinion, it had been the paranormal element that had been the real stroke of genius.

“Cruella, this is Emma Swan. Our newest employee,” Malena introduced.

“Hello,” Emma said, trying her best to recover and not come across as a crazy fan. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too, miss Swan,” Cruella said as she shook Emma’s hand.

“Miss Swan has only been with us for two weeks, but she’s doing an excellent job,” Malena said.

Emma smiled politely and shyly at that.

“You’re a test reader?” Cruella guessed, nodding towards the manuscript stuffed under Emma’s arm.

“Uhh...” Emma said halfheartedly, because Malena had specifically said that Emma’s job didn’t really have an official title.

 

“Yes,” Malena said. “That’s correct. Miss Swan is our newest test reader. She has spent this past week settling in, but today she’s really getting started.”

“Oh, I see,” Cruella said, offering Emma a smile. “Tell me, miss Swan. Have you read Clockwise?”

“Yes!” Emma said eagerly, abandoning every attempt at not sounding like an obsessed fan. “It was incredible!”

Cruella smiled brightly at that. “You think so?”

“Yes! My god, yes! Absolutely! It was fantastic!”

“Which part did you like the best?” Cruella inquired, still smiling.

“Well, the part where-“

“I think that’s enough ego stroking for one day, dear Cruella,” Malena sharply interjected and glared at Cruella.

Cruella just laughed dismissively and focused on Emma. “Can you keep a secret, miss Swan?”

“Yeah?” Emma said curiously.

Cruella lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper as she said: “I’m working on a sequel.”

“Seriously?” Emma exclaimed and felt how her heart started thudding in her chest. “That’s amazing. I can’t wait to read it!”

Cruella smiled and then turned to Malena. “I like her.”

Malena rolled her eyes. “As far as I recall, my dear Victoria, we’re here to discuss your first draft. Not dawdle.”

“Mmm, quite so,” Cruella drawled. “And I suspect we’re here to discuss why you’re so stiff as well.”

In that moment, Emma quietly admired Victoria De Villier. Emma would never have dared talking to Malena like that.

Malena glared at Cruella and her blue eyes gleamed dangerously. Emma would for sure have run for the hills by now, but Cruella just smiled unaffected and then laughed heartedly. Then she flashed Emma a smile and then turned her back on her to walk into the conference room. Malena shook her head and rolled her eyes once more. Then she turned her attention back to Emma. “Miss Swan, could you be a dear and fetch the red folder in my office? I have all my documents concerning Victoria in there. It’s on the top shelf by the window.”

“Sure,” Emma said.

“Thank you,” Malena replied, offering a smile. “How is the manuscript by the way?”

“It’s really good,” Emma said truthfully.

“Good,” Malena said. “Perhaps we’ll bring it into consideration then.”

“That sounds great,” Emma said, slightly trailing off as she glanced at the door to the conference room. She still couldn’t quite believe that she had just met Victoria De Villier.

“Miss Swan?”

Emma quickly looked at Malena.

“Folder,” Malena said and sounded a bit overbearing.

“Oh. Right. Yeah, of course. I’ll find it,” Emma said quickly as she spun around on her heels and jogged down the long corridor towards the elevator.

Reaching Malena’s office was a bit of a quest, to be honest. First, she had to take an elevator all the way to the 24th floor, and then she had to jog down another long corridor. Twice she bursted through the wrong door, but luckily, the rooms were empty, so Emma didn’t manage to make a complete fool out of herself. But she was a bit out of breath when she finally reached her destination. She pulled the door to Malena’s office open and went inside. She easily spotted the red folder on the top shelf near the window. It was squeezed in between two other leather folders. Emma took a second to massage her ribs. It was very possible that she would start running again. She felt a bit out of shape. The blonde slowly walked towards the shelf, still panting slightly under her breath. Malena’s office was still intimidating as hell, and it felt a bit like all the dragon statues were watching and waiting for her to somehow screw up. Emma glared back at the dragons as she reached the shelf near the window. That was one tall shelf. Emma reminded herself to wear heels to work tomorrow. Seriously, she had to stand on her tippy toes to reach the top shelf.

Emma groaned from sheer effort as she scrambled to grab the red folder, and she silently wondered whether this was some sort of test. A way for Malena to judge whether she was a good employee or not. Emma almost chuckled. Maybe that was a tad farfetched, but still, it felt a bit like something Malena would actually be capable of doing. The top shelf test.

“God... Damnit,” the blonde cursed under her breath as she used all her effort. She could feel the texture of the folder. She strained once more and made a little noise of triumph when she managed to lock her fingers around the briefcase. Then she pulled. And pulled. The folder wasn’t budging. Emma cursed again as she gave it a firmer yank. The folder was undoubtedly trapped between the two leather bound folders, and in a way that probably made perfect sense. It had been a long time since Victoria De Villier had published anything. Of course the folder concerning her had ended up trapped between two other more important folders.

“Oh, come.... on!” Emma said and grinded her teeth. Malena was waiting for her folder, and Emma kept imagining her coming into the office and inquiring why Emma hadn’t fulfilled her task yet. The blonde refused to be caught in such an embarrassing situation as this one. She refused to tell her boss that she couldn’t give her the folder because it was stuck. That would be awful. No. Emma had to solve this problem on her own. And so she did the only thing she could do in this situation. She yanked. Harshly.

It happened immediately after. The red folder came loose. Oh yes, it came loose. But the problem was that so did the leather bound folder next to it. It actually hit Emma in the head on its downfall, and the next second the leather bound folder was lying pretty much upside down on the floor, and there were papers spread across all over the floor.

“Oops,” Emma muttered. Nice one, Swan! She rubbed the spot on her head where the folder had hit her. Once again, she had almost been taken down by her clumsiness.

Emma released her grip on the red folder and quickly crouched down to clean up the mess she had just made. God damn it. She could hear muffled voices from afar, and she frantically picked up the many papers and stuffed them back into the folder. Now she would prefer to admit that the red folder had been stuck. Anything but having someone walk into the office and see the mess she had made.

The blonde cursed softly under her breath as she gathered as many as the papers as she possibly could in one go and then stuffed them back into the folder. She really hoped that it would be a long time before Malena needed this particular folder. She was painfully aware that things didn’t look quite as neat as they probably had before.

“Shit, shit, shit, shit!” it was so typical for her to do something like this. To make a mess out of things. God damnit, Malena is waiting for me.

Like a whirlwind, Emma gathered the rest of the papers and stuffed them back into the folder. She was just about to feel a little bit triumphant because she thought she was done. She thought she had managed to clean up everything.

But clearly, she hadn’t. Just as Emma was rising from the floor to do her job and bring the red folder back to Malena, she noticed something small and white lying on the floor. It looked like a little piece of paper that had clearly been stuffed away between the many other papers, and now had fallen out thanks to Emma.

Emma quickly crouched down once more and picked the little white piece of paper up. But upon turning the paper over, Emma realized two things. It wasn’t white. And it wasn’t just a piece of paper.

No, it was a picture. Emma tilted her head slightly as she looked at the motive. It was a picture of two women. It didn’t take long before Emma recognize both of them. There was Malena with her golden hair in soft curls and her blue eyes sparkling. She appeared to be around sixteen. And there next to her was Regina. Her dark hair was much longer and curlier than it was now, spilling down her front, and rom what Emma could judge, it probably reached Regina’s lower back. Neither of the two women were looking at the camera. Instead they were looking at each other, and their pose was a bit sideways.
Malena’s hands were resting on Regina’s lower back, and Regina had her arms loosely wrapped around Malena’s neck.

“Huh,” Emma said as she gawked at the picture. This didn’t look like the normal, silly pictures high school friends took together. No, this looked like a.... couple picture. Maybe Emma’s “gaydar” was completely wonky at times, but this she was sure of. There was no doubt in her mind. Regina and Malena definitely had a thing going in high school And judging by this picture, a very good thing. Both of them looked so happy. The moment captured in the picture looked so private.

Emma weighed the picture in her hand. This was interesting. Extremely interesting.

And also extremely non of her business. This was a personal picture Malena had tucked away. This wasn’t something Emma should be looking at.

The blonde quickly stuffed the photograph away in the folder she had found it in, and then she grabbed the red folder and quickly left Malena’s office. As she quickly walked down the labyrinth of corridors that would take her back to the elevator, she tried not to think too much of the picture she just accidentally found. God, Regina had looked beautiful! Well, obviously she still did, but seeing her as a teenager had been something quite special. Emma felt half-dazed as she stepped inside the elevator with the red folder in hand. Regina and Malena had had a relationship when they were in high school. That was why Malena had been fawning over Regina. She clearly still had a soft spot for Regina. Emma wondered if that could become a problem. And she wondered whether Malena knew what had happened to Regina. Did she knew exactly what sort of accident Regina had been involved in? Maybe. But then again maybe not. Regina had mentioned that she hadn’t seen Malena for a while. Not since before the accident.

Emma tried to force herself to think about work when she stepped out of the elevator and jogged down the hallway, but damn it was difficult to do so when she had just gained confirmation on something that had been messing with her head for a while.

Regina liked women.

For the rest of that day, Emma tried to think of something else. She kept reading the manuscript and then helped out wherever she could. And luckily, the jobs she was asked to do was enough to keep her occupied.

 

But as soon as her workday was over and she could climb inside her newly acquired yellow bug, Emma immediately stopped thinking about work and started to think about the picture she had stumbled on. A teenage Regina with her arms wrapped around Malena’s neck. Regina and Malena had dated when they were in high school, Emma was certain about that. And while she still wasn’t completely sure whether Malena would end up being a problem or not, she couldn’t help but to feel ever so slightly excited. This was very, very good news.

Emma whistled slightly along with the old, crackling radio. The quality wasn’t very good, and sooner rather than later Emma would probably have to change the radio, but for right now, it could do, and
Emma happily went from whistling to singing along. Madonna on the radio was doing a far better job, but Emma didn’t care.

Emma adjusted the mirror a bit and then glanced at the manuscript lying on the passenger’s seat. Malena had allowed her to bring it back home so she could finish reading it. Emma knew exactly what her plans for tonight were. A cup of hot cocoa with cinnamon, a couple a pop tarts, and then early to bed with the manuscript. Emma was looking forward to reading the rest of the story. She chuckled a little.

She had actually met Victoria De Villiers today. Emma couldn’t wait to tell Ella that. And Isabelle. Boy, Isabelle would go crazy! She and Emma had actually talked about Clockwise yesterday. In fact they had spend most of an hour discussing the cryptic ending. And now there was a sequel on the way! Emma almost couldn’t wait.

On the radio, Madonna was still singing about being “crazy for you”, and Emma thought to herself that she couldn’t have landed on a more appropriate song. She was most definitely crazy for someone.

She missed Regina. Their coffee appointment had been a major success, and Emma almost couldn’t wait to see the brunette again. She couldn’t wait to make her smile or raise an eyebrow in that seductive way that made Emma’s insides turn to mush. The blonde hummed tunelessly to herself. She would definitely text Regina when she got home. There hadn’t been much time to message the brunette today, and Emma was more than ready to change that. She wondered what Regina was doing today. And had been doing for the past week. She had been busy; Emma knew as much. But busy doing what exactly?

That was the major question. Emma hoped that there wasn’t any trouble or anything. She didn’t want Regina to be in trouble.

Emma started to hum along to the new Madonna song blaring from the radio, and she smiled as her head started to fill with thoughts about Regina. It was so easy to just abandon everything else and start thinking about Regina. Emma liked feeling like that. All happy and optimistic. It had been a while since she last had felt like this. Content and excited about what was to come.

As she reached a turnabout, she reached up and adjusted the rearview mirror just a tad. She was a bit absentmindedly and barely picked up on the grey station car driving behind her. Emma switched up the volume on Madonna and wondered whether she should find another radio station to listen to. Normally she wasn’t a Madonna kind of girl. She jammed her finger down on the button until she found a song that fitted her.

 

“Huh, because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do...”

 

Emma chuckled and tried her best to keep up with Pharrell. Yep, this song was entirely appropriate for her mood. She definitely felt like a room without a roof. Who cared that her singing voice was pretty rusty and definitely not the best? There was no one around to witness her car-karaoke-session. And maybe that was a good thing.

Still singing along and trying to outdo Pharrell, she reached another turnabout. She took the first left.

So did the grey station car behind her. Emma didn’t pay enormous attention to it. It was just a car going in the same direction as her. She turned the volume up on Pharrell Williams.

 

“Here come bad news, talking this and that
(Yeah) Well, give me all you got, and don't hold it back
(Yeah) Well, I should probably warn you I'll be just fine
(Yeah) No offense to you, don't waste your time
Here's why...”

She reached a traffic light and waited for it to switch to green, and as she did that, she kept up the silly singing: “Because I’m happy, clap along if you feel like a room without a roof! Because I’m happy, clap along if you feel like a room without a roof!”

The traffic light switched to green, and Emma fumbled a bit with the gears as she crossed the road. She still wasn’t a hundredth percent familiar with this car. But she would get the hang of it. Right now, nothing could bring her down, and she kept singing as she drove: “Clap along if you know what happiness is to you! Because I'm happy, clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do!”

Emma reached another traffic light, but this time the light was already green, so there was nothing stopping her from crossing the road. This time she turned right, though. The way home to Steveston was a bit complicated like that. There were many twists and turns. Emma was grateful she didn’t have to take the bus anymore to get to her destination. The bus driver had been a bit of a sadist who enjoyed making sharp turns. More than a few times, Emma had almost fallen off her seat.

The only teeny tiny complain Emma had about her new-old car was the rearview mirror. It kept tilting slightly, and every so often she had to reach up and adjust it. Like right now for instance. She rolled her eyes slightly as she adjusted the damn mirror once again, and as she glanced in the mirror, she saw the same grey station car driving behind her. Emma raised an eyebrow. Okay, that was a bit strange. Hadn’t that car been driving behind her for a good while now? Emma quickly glanced at the time being displayed on the radio in the car. Ten minutes. The grey station car had been driving steadily behind her for a solid ten minutes. Emma frowned slightly. It could be a coincidence. She wasn’t driving particularly fast, but not exactly slow either. She shifted in the driver’s seat and then slowed down even more. Now the grey station car had every opportunity to drive past her.

But it didn’t. Instead it slowed down as well.

Emma wetted her lips as she switched the music off. Maybe this wasn’t a coincidence after all. Maybe it was a completely deliberate act. She adjusted the mirror again, but it was impossible for her to see who was driving behind her. And it was also impossible to see whether there were more persons than one in the car.

Emma decided to test her theory one last time. She sped up.

The grey station car behind her did the same.

Then she slowed down until the car was almost driving in snail pace.

The car behind her did the exact same thing.

Emma’s heart began thudding painfully in her chest. If she had in doubt before, she wasn’t anymore. She was definitely being tailed. Someone was following her home from work. Emma squeezed the wheel as she tried to think back. Had she seen any grey station cars outside Dragon Publishing? No. She was pretty sure she hadn’t. So whoever it was in that car didn’t know where she worked. That was a relief.

Emma glanced in the mirror once more. Who was in that car? Mary Margaret? Someone she had hired to follow Emma? The blonde felt nauseated, but she knew that she had to keep her cool. As much as she wanted to, she couldn’t just step on it and speed all the way back to Steveston.

So by the next traffic light, Emma patiently waited until the light switched from yellow to green and then she turned left instead of right.

The grey station car behind her did the exact same thing, but this time Emma didn’t mind it. This was exactly what she was hoping would happen.

She made a series of twists and turns on her way and paid closely attention to the car behind her. Once she reached another turn, she sped up, overtook another car and soon enough she reached a rest area that was sort of concealed behind trees.

Emma was quick to park the yellow bug, and then she peered out from behind the trees. It didn’t take long before the grey station car drive past the rest area and continue down the road.

Emma’s heart was damn nearly in her throat, and she remained parked behind the tree for a few minutes. She was sure she had managed to shake her follower off. That had been nerve wracking. But fortunately enough, she had been aware enough to pick up on it. Whoever was in that car was on their way to a completely wrong destination. Not Steveston. That was a relief. No one knew where she lived. Yet.

Emma swallowed something. Had that been Mary Margaret or someone she had hired to find her? The blonde wasn’t completely sure. But she knew for sure that someone had been following her, and now her biggest question was how? How the hell had they found her? Emma had literally only told Ella about her departure, and Ella would never betray her.

Emma’s heart was still thrumming uncomfortably against her ribs as she started the car and maneuvered it away from the resting area. Not a single car was in sight, and Emma was free to drive away in the opposite direction. Her sweaty palms slipped slightly on the wheel. Mary Margaret’s insanity had reached new heights. Emma still had some trouble with believing that her adoptive mother should have followed her all the way to Vancouver. Was it impossible to be free of her?

Emma’s jaw clenched as she acknowledged how Mary Margaret once again had managed to ruin her day. But still, she had managed that car off. Her exact location was still unknown. That was at least a relief. Something to be grateful for.

Emma pretty much stepped on it as she continued her journey back to Steveston, and every so often she glanced in the mirror, anxiously looking out for grey station cars. But she didn’t see the car in the rearview mirror again. It was gone.

 


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

 

Once back at Eugenia’s Inn, Emma pretty much grabbed the manuscript and then jumped out of the car. She rushed inside the inn and barely registered that Ruby was greeting her. She was much too busy getting back to her room, and as soon as she did that, she slammed the door behind her and then locked it. She pressed the doorknob down several times to make sure the door was actually locked.

She ran over to the window and peered out at the square. No grey station cars in sight. Of course not. You shook it off. Remember? You’re fine. Nobody followed you here. Emma took a deep, calming breath. She was safe here. Everything was fine. But still, she took no chances and immediately texted Ella, asking her if she had witnessed Mary Margaret acting strange for this past week. Once the text message was send, Emma put her phone down on the nightstand. She knew that Ella happened to finish her shift late today. She wasn’t gonna hear anything from her for at least a couple of hours. That’s why the blonde yelped when her phone suddenly chimed. There was a new text message. Emma quickly snatched the phone. It wasn’t Ella. It was Regina. And she was asking Emma about her day.

Emma immediately felt a bit calmer, and she was quick to text Regina back: ‘my workday was fine, Malena gave me a manuscript to proofread, so that’s really great.’ Emma sent the text and considered whether or not she should tell Regina about the car that had followed her.

Her phone chimed again, and Emma was quick to check the message: ‘that’s wonderful news. I’m very happy to hear that you’re getting the chance to do something you really want.’

Emma was quick to text back: ‘yeah, I’ve just got home. What about you? What are you doing tonight?’

The response came fast. ‘Henry and I are about to have dinner, but apart from that, I don’t think we have many plans.’

Really? You should drive to Steveston then. Obviously, Emma didn’t write that to Regina. As the blonde considered, she saw the picture of Regina and Malena together for her inner eye, and she ended up texting: ‘do you have any plans for next Saturday? I was wondering if you’d like to have coffee with me again.’

For a moment, the blonde was slightly awestruck over her own sudden boost of confidence. That was smooth, Swan. Maybe even a little too smooth.

But what was done was done, Emma couldn’t change anything, and soon the answer arrived. Now Emma’s palms were sweaty for other reasons as she checked the message: ‘coffee sounds good.’

Just like that. Pure and simple. A huge, shit-eating grin erupted on Emma’s face. Things weren’t so bad. The grey car that had followed her on her way home from work wasn’t gonna stop Emma from living her life. If Mary Margaret really had found her, then so be it. Emma was more than prepared to take a confrontation with her adoptive mother. Another confrontation.

In the meantime she would take different ways when she drove home. Add a few shortcuts here and there, and she would obviously watch her back. That was all she could do for now.

Emma looked at the phone in her hand and texted back: ‘awesome! I’ll look forward to that.’

Nothing was gonna stop her from looking forward to seeing Regina again. And maybe, just maybe, she would pluck up enough courage to ask Regina to come to the harvest festival.

 

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