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To Hear Her Voice In The Silence

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She wasn’t obsessed or anything, but Emma was most definitely on the look out for grey station cars the following days. No, she didn’t spend her time hovering by her window or anything, but she checked now and then. Just to make sure. And she took a lot of different routes when she drove to and from work. It wasn’t exactly easier, but it felt a hell of a lot safer. She made sure to check her rearview mirror and stay alert, but she didn’t see the grey station car again. Or any other car that seemed to be following her for that matter.

Still, Emma didn’t just let her guard down that easily. She refused to be lured into some false sense of security and one day open her door and bam, Mary Margaret would be on the other side of that door.

She had heard back from Ella, and Ella could report that she hadn’t observed any weird behavior from Mary Margaret. The woman was her normal... Well, not normal self. But Ella hadn’t heard anything that could indicate that Mary Margaret had found Emma.

Emma wasn’t on edge, but she wasn’t overly relaxed either. She was alert without being obsessive. And she had already decided that if she saw the grey station car outside Dragon Publishing, she would go straight to Malena and inform her of the problem. Malena had so much security spread around the building. It would be the easiest thing in the world for her to inform the security to be alert.

So yes, Emma had figured out how to handle the situation. She would stay alert, but she wouldn’t stop living her life. Mary Margaret had already ruined the first seventeen years of her life. Emma refused to let her adoptive mother ruin more.

She wouldn’t let this get to her. She would continue to look on the bright side. Everything was going so well at her new job. She had finished the manuscript, and Malena appeared to agree with her. The manuscript had potential. Her new boss actually valued her opinion. That was a nice change. It was nice to be acknowledged and heard, and Emma knew that yes, maybe Malena had only given her a job because she knew Regina, but she also knew that Malena’s opinion of her had changed. She knew that Malena now recognized that Emma was actually good at doing her job. It wasn’t an act of mercy anymore, and Emma was grateful for that. She didn’t want to be hired just because she happened to know Regina.

Speaking of Regina, she and Regina had been texting so much during the past couple of days, and the mystery surrounding Regina only deepened. She often mentioned that she didn’t do much, and that she often felt tired at night. Emma often felt temped to ask more about that. And what’s more, she also wanted to ask about Regina’s past relationship with Malena. Because Emma was certain they’ve had a relationship in high school. That picture she had accidentally found, was a rock hard proof of that.

And Emma was so damn curious. About everything. And when she wasn’t curious, she was nervous, because she was still afraid of asking Regina to come to the harvest festival. She was afraid that Regina would say no.

But.... if she didn’t ask, she would never know, right? Emma knew she had to fess up and ask the brunette. But not through text. God no. She would ask Regina in person. Face to face. So many things could be misread or get lost in translation through text.

Emma shifted a bit, adjusted on the bed. Then she stretched her neck a bit. There was a kink there, she noted. She had been laying in the same position for too long. But now she could roll onto her back.

She had finished the manuscript Malena had allowed her to bring home with her. Now she was free to enjoy her weekend. Tomorrow was Saturday. Tomorrow she was gonna see Regina again. They had agreed to meet up for coffee at eleven. Exactly like the last time. Emma stretched her legs and folded her arms underneath her head. She was looking forward to seeing Regina again. Very much. But she was nervous too. Nervous because of the two things she was planning on asking Regina. One: she was going to invite Regina and possibly Henry to the harvest festival. And two: she was planning to ask

Regina if she was currently seeing anyone. Not in a painfully obvious way of course. No, Emma was planning to casually slip the question into their conversation somewhere along the way. She had decided that she didn’t want to beat around the bush anymore. She had never been one for dancing around things, and she had decided to go back to her old “straight to the point”-ways. She had to know whether
Regina was seeing someone or not. Maybe it was seeing the picture of Regina and Malena together, and getting confirmation that Regina liked women, that had given Emma’s confidence a boost. She and Regina hit it off. They had good chemistry, and Emma wanted to take things a step further. And finding out whether Regina was seeing someone or not was the first step towards just that.

Emma felt good about her plan, and she tried to focus on only that, but unfortunately, she kept thinking about that picture of the teenage version of Regina and Malena. Emma couldn’t help but wonder how long the two women were together. Had it just been a brief high school fling, or had they been together after high school had ended as well? And what had gone wrong between them? Emma was curious about that too.

Emma checked her phone. Nine o’clock. Was it too late to text Regina? Maybe. But Emma took the chance anyway. There hadn’t been much time to text the brunette today, and Emma had missed it. If Regina found that it was too late, she simply wouldn’t answer. Emma grabbed the phone from her nightstand and simply texted: ‘Hi’.

She had barely put the phone down before it vibrated, indicating that she had just received a text message. Emma was quick to grab the phone, and she rolled onto her front as she checked the message: ‘hello.’

Emma smiled a little as she texted: ‘I hope I’m not texting you too late.’

Another message arrived immediately, and Emma checked it just as fast: ‘no, not at all. I’ve never been one for going to bed early.’

Emma smiled again as she sent the next message: ‘me neither. Have you been busy today?’

Again, the answer came immediately. Regina was a quick texter: ‘a bit, yes. Henry and I are currently house hunting, and that sort of thing tends to take a while.’

Emma quickly pushed her blonde hair away from her face as she texted back: ‘yeah, I’m kinda dreading to start my own house hunt, but I know I have to eventually. Eugenia’s Inn is great, but I can’t keep living at a hotel for the rest of my life.’

The answer to that came fast too: ‘do you have any idea what kind of place you’re looking for then?’

Emma snorted quietly as she replied to that text: ‘honestly, anything cheap would do. I don’t care whether it’s just a room or an apartment, as long as it’s a place I can call my own.’

No, Regina clearly didn’t have anything else to do with her time. That had to be the reason why she was typing back so fucking fast: ‘I know what you mean. My sister is a wonderful person, and I’m so grateful that she let Henry and I live in her apartment, but... I’m going stir crazy here. To put it plainly, the place is simply too small for three people. We have to find our own place.’

Emma chuckled quietly as she typed and then sent: ‘sure sounds like it. Any idea what you and the kid might be looking for?’ she eagerly awaited Regina’s reply and hoped that it would be something uplifting. She hoped that the brunette wasn’t looking for something that was too far away from Steveston. That would really suck.

Soon enough, the answer to her question came, and Emma was quick to read it: ‘I’m not quite sure yet. I can’t decide whether it should be an apartment or a house. And Henry isn’t very helpful either. He wants to either live on a farm with lots of animals, or in a castle. I’ve told him that there aren’t that many castles here, but he doesn’t seem to listen to me.’

Emma laughed loudly and the sound filled the otherwise quiet hotel room. Henry was definitely a funny kid. Her shoulders shook with laughter as she texted back: ‘a castle, huh? Wow. That’s a pretty tough demand to meet.’

Her phone vibrated quickly once more, and Emma was still chuckling as she checked that message: ‘yes, tell me about it. I have no idea where he gets his refined taste from. Certainly not from me.’

Emma chuckled again because she was certain Regina was joking. The brunette definitely seemed the type to have a refined taste. Emma could tell from the clothes she wore and the purses she carried with her.

The blonde texted back: ‘well, if you’re not gonna stay in a castle, where are you gonna live then?’

Another reply: ‘I’m not quite sure yet, but not too far away from my sister. She would kill me if I left Vancouver again.’

Emma felt relief spread through her body as she texted: ‘yeah, you did mention that you’re originally from Montreal, but you don’t have any plans of going back there?’

This time, Regina took a bit longer to answer, but Emma was every bit satisfied when she could read the new message: ‘god no. Montreal is a finished chapter.’

Emma smiled a little, flipped onto her back. She couldn’t resist to be a little bold in her answer and texted: ‘cool! It would be a bit difficult to have coffee with you if you lived in Montreal. Possible, but difficult.’ She felt every bit like a sly dog as she send the text.

But Regina’s answer was every bit sarcastic: ‘well, it’s just a four hour long drive, miss Swan. Not a big deal at all.’

Emma snorted quietly as she let her fingers tap on the screen: ‘maybe not for your Mercedes, but what about my bug? I’m sort of afraid it would break down halfway there.’ she sent the message and was already looking forward to reading Regina’s answer, but then something outside her window caught her attention. The sound of a car driving by. Emma told herself not to be paranoid, but still it couldn’t harm to quickly peek outside and see whether it was someone “interesting”. Emma quickly rose from the bed and patted over to the window. She lifted the blinds and peered out of the window, overlooking the square. Well, there was a car out there, and Emma squinted slightly as the vehicle passed a streetlight. Then she felt her shoulders uncurl. It was a red car. Not a grey one. And definitely not a station car either. Good. Not the car that had been tailing her then. Just a random car. Emma told herself to stop being so paranoid, but god it was hard. She knew she wasn’t crazy. She knew that she had definitely been followed by a car, and she so wished she had been able to see whether it had been Mary Margaret behind the wheel, or someone she could have hired to follow Emma. A private detective, for instance. And clearly not a very good one.

Emma let the blinds fall back down. She wondered what was next. What else could Mary Margaret think of? Emma wasn’t sure. But she knew she was prepared for anything. She would be alert but not paranoid.

She went back to the bed and flopped down on it. Then grabbing her phone and check the newest message from Regina: ‘Ah. You may have a point there. Do excuse me, I think my son is out of bed, and I better go and find out why.’

Emma quickly texted back a ‘no problem’, and then she patiently waited for the brunette to come back to her phone. Emma couldn’t think of anything better to do than texting Regina, so she was more than willing to wait.

In the meantime, Emma made a reminder in her phone about stopping by the ice cream store. Their rocky road was seriously to die for, and Elsa, the woman who owned the ice cream store was also very nice. Emma had a feeling they would be great friends. She had no idea what had brought a swede all the way to Canada to sell ice cream in a tiny town like Steveston, but what the heck. Stranger things had happened, and Emma was happy she had ran into Elsa on one of her daily walks in Steveston. Elsa seemed like a very genuine and down to earth person. They would be good friends. Emma was sure of it. To be honest, she was actually surprised at how many friends she had already gained here in Steveston. She hadn’t been living here for that long, and she didn’t normally made friends this easily. But it was nice. A very welcome change. Therefore she would be very sad if she had to leave Steveston again. She was tired of having to change her locks, change her numbers, switch apartment because of Mary Margaret. She had escaped all the way from Toronto to Vancouver. Why couldn’t that be enough?

Emma reminded herself to calm down. Yes, a car had followed her home from work, but she had managed to shake it off. Mary Margaret still didn’t know where she lived.

That was when her phone chimed again, and Emma happily welcomed the interruption. She was quick to grab her phone and check the message: ‘sorry about that.’

Emma immediately replied. ‘No problem. Everything alright with the kid?’ she was allowed to ask that, right? It was Regina herself who had mentioned that Henry was out of bed.

The reply soon came, and Emma purposefully ignored the cramping sensation in her leg as she checked the message: ‘not completely. He had a nightmare. Actually, he’s been having a few of those lately. Night terrors, the experts calls it. This is the third night in a row he’s been waking up crying, poor thing, and my sister is out tonight, so I’m on my own to handle it. One of the many joys about being a single mother.’

Emma was quick to text back a sympathetic: ‘oh no, poor kid! Nightmares are the worst!’ but there was a teeny tiny part of her that thought about something else than just sympathy. Single mother.

Regina had just written she was a single parent. Emma’s heart skipped a beat or two. Obviously, Emma was sad to hear that Regina had to deal with tougher situations all on her own, but still... a single mother! There was no father in the picture. Emma was sort of relieved. She had never been interested in a woman who had a kid before, and she didn’t need a lot of imagination to picture how complicated and confusing things could get if there was a father in the picture as well.

A response arrived and pulled her out of her thoughts. The blonde quickly checked the message: ‘he’s back in bed now, reading a comic book until he gets tired. I hope that’ll do the trick, but at the same time I have a hunch that I’ll be spending the night in his room.’

Emma quickly texted back: ‘I’m sorry the little guy is going through a rough patch.’

Only a minute passed before the answer arrived, and Emma frowned a bit when she read it: ‘he really is, and more often than not I end up feeling as frustrated as him because I do much to actually soothe him. I can’t read him a story or sing to him. Not that he would appreciate if I did that, but nevertheless.’

Before Emma could get the chance to answer that text, another arrived, and Emma immediately read that one as well: ‘and I shouldn’t be complaining to you. I’m sorry. Normally I’m not one for complaining, but tonight is pretty tough. But anyway, enough about that. Did you finish reading that manuscript you told me about?’

Emma felt very tempted to write that she didn’t mind Regina complaining, but she could sense that the subject was closed. Instead she wrote: ‘yeah, I did. And that ending damn nearly killed me! I’m supposed to give feedback to Malena on Monday. I really hope she’ll at least consider to publish this book. It almost makes me cry to think that the author won’t get a chance.’

Only now Emma remembered the cup of coffee she had left on her nightstand a bit earlier. She quickly reached for it and took a sip only to grimace immediately afterwards. The coffee was cold. She had been too enthralled with first reading and then texting Regina. Shoot. Maybe she would have to go downstairs and sweettalk Eugenia into making her another cup of coffee.

Her phone chimed again, and Emma quickly checked the message: ‘Mal is usually very good at listening to her test readers, so I’m sure she’ll bring the manuscript into her considerations.’

Emma felt every bit ballsy as she replied to that text with: ‘yeah, otherwise I’ll have to ask you to ask her to publish the book.’

The response came before Emma got the chance to adjust and stretch her aching muscles a bit. And her aching muscles were soon forgotten as she concentrated on reading the newly arrived text: ‘and what makes you think that she’ll listen to me instead of her employees?’

Emma considered. Bit her lip slightly and then daringly texted: ‘I dunno, she just speaks very highly about you.’

The blonde’s palms were a bit sweaty as she heard her phone scratch slightly against the mattress, indicating that Regina had just answered her message. Emma was well aware that she was getting closer to one of the questions she wanted to ask Regina the most. Because stumbling upon an old photo of Regina and Malena was one thing. Emma would very much like to have Regina confirm things once and for all.

‘She does, does she? Oh well, I’m sure she’ll listen to you, Emma. You’re working for her. I am not.’

No, but you used to date her, and she’s has already mentioned how much she valuates your opinion, and she’s clearly sentimental enough to hang on to the picture. Emma gnashed her teeth slightly. This was getting frustrating.

And then Regina was texting again: ‘And now I just heard Henry get out of bed again. I’m sorry, but I have to go and convince him to go back to bed.’

Emma quickly replied: ‘hey, don’t apologize, I get it. I hope the poor champ will fall asleep soon. I’ll see you tomorrow.’ As soon as she had pressed “send” she felt worried. If Henry was scared and upset and didn’t want to sleep for the next long while, it was very possible that Regina would be too tired to drive to Steveston tomorrow.

But a moment later, the blonde received another text that simply said ‘indeed.’

Emma felt less worried then. So far, they were still on for tomorrow. For now, they had an appointment.

The blonde hooked her phone up with the charger and then put her phone down on the nightstand. She would have to let it rest there for a while. The remaining battery time were down to twenty percent.

Emma chuckled. She couldn’t remember the last time she had drained her phone like this.

Now she missed Regina even more than before. She hoped that their appointment would still stand tomorrow. After all, she had something pretty important to ask Regina about. The harvest festival.

Emma felt a flutter of excitement in her belly. She probably ought to practice some sort of speech. It was silly, but Emma was prone to stick her foot in her mouth and say things the completely wrong way. And she didn’t want Regina to misunderstand anything.

Emma frowned. What should she wear for their coffee appointment tomorrow? Something nice but not over the top. Something that would catch Regina’s eye without being too much. Maybe the green sweater she had bought yesterday. It suited her so well and really brought out her eyes. Emma knew that her eyes were one of her biggest assets. And her hair. She would let her hair hang loose and curly tomorrow. Maybe even add a little extra of that stuff that made her curls extra voluminous. Emma chuckled slightly and shook her head. Who was she, and what the hell had she done to the Emma Swan who normally didn’t give two shits about her hair?

 

The next morning started with a bang. Literally. Emma was awakened by a loud crash right outside her room, and then the sound of Ruby cursing loudly. It would appear that the waitress had dropped a trey with something on it. The next second Emma heard Eugenia coming barreling up the stairs and then telling Ruby off. Ruby snapped something in return, and that only seemed to tick off Eugenia further. Emma quelled her amusement as she got out of bed and went into the bathroom to freshen up.

She brushed her hair, added that particular thick, gooey cream that would make it stay curly for the rest of the day. Then she put on her tight, black jeans. The ones that hugged her ass and made it look so good. Next she carefully put on the green sweater she had thought about yesterday. Emma liked this sweater. It was soft and comfortable, but still had a neckline that revealed just a tiny bit of cleavage. It was seductive without being tacky. And it brought out her eyes so beautifully. She should wear this sweater more often.

As soon as she was finished in the bathroom, she went back inside the bedroom and checked her phone. There were no new messages. That was a good thing. She and Regina’s appointment were still standing. There were no calls either. That worried Emma just a bit more. Silence from Mary Margaret never meant anything good.

But right now Emma didn’t want to think about Mary Margaret. She had decided that she would only start worrying if she saw the grey station car again. But then she would actually start to worry. As in contacting sheriff Graham worrying. And possibly start taking the bus to and from work again. A yellow bug stuck out like a sore thumb. Emma loved her new car, but it was too noticeable. Too easy to spot if someone really was following her.

Emma went downstairs to get some breakfast, and it didn’t take long before Ruby spotted her. The brunette waitress smiled and came round the counter. It was impossible not to notice how short her skirt was. And how tall her heels were. Maybe that was the reason she had dropped the tray. Maybe she had tripped.

“Morning Ems,” she greeted.

“Good morning,” Emma said and smiled even though that pet name rattled a bit in her ears. The few people in her life to ever nickname her, always called her Em or Swan. Never Ems. And the new nickname sort of rubbed Emma the wrong way. Maybe it was her own fault, though. She still hadn’t talked properly to Ruby. There had never been a right time to do so.

“Cocoa with cinnamon and bear claw?” Ruby asked, flashing Emma another smile.

“Yeah. That’d be great,” Emma said and returned the smile.

“Coming right up,” Ruby said briskly and clack-clack’ed round the counter once more.

Emma discreetly hid a yawn behind her hand, and then she found the little notepad she always brought with her in case she experienced a flash of inspiration and needed to write something down. Which was exactly the case today. A possible storyline for her re-telling of The Goose Girl. Emma quickly scribbled down the new storyline and reminded herself to somehow incorporate these new things into the finished work. She had just scribbled down the last sentence when Ruby came over to her table with a bear claw and a cup of cocoa sprinkled with cinnamon.

“Thanks,” Emma said as she looked up from the notepad.

“You’re welcome,” Ruby said, flashing another smile. “I saw the new car you’ve bought. Cute little thing.”

“Oh. Thank you,” Emma said and leaned back on her chair. “Yeah, I thought it looked lonely, so I decided to follow an impulse and just buy it. But it’s actually better than what I expected. Even the radio is working.”

Ruby laughed at that. “Great to see you’re settling in in the town. I know Granny loves having you as a tenant. She says it makes for a nice change.”

“To be honest, I’m surprised there aren’t more people visiting this place,” Emma said. “It’s a little gem.”

“It is,” Ruby agreed. “But not much is happening here. I think the mayor is trying to lure more people here by pulling out the big guns whenever there’s an event here.”

“Mm,” Emma said, taking a sip of her cocoa.

“Speaking of events....” Ruby said, pushing a lock of dyed red hair behind her ear.

Emma looked up. This was gonna be awkward.

“There’s gonna be this harvest festival in a month,” Ruby said, and Emma saw how she wetted her lips slightly. “It sounds cliché, but it’s actually pretty great with lanterns and a funfair and plenty of nice food. I was wondering if you’d want to.... Go with me?”

Emma swallowed and felt a bit like a villain despite not being in the wrong. “I can’t. I’m sorry,” she said.

“Oh, okay,” Ruby said. “That’s cool. Yeah. I should have figured that you’re already seeing someone.”

“I’m not seeing someone,” Emma said. “It’s just...”

“You fancy someone else then,” Ruby quickly figured out.

“Yeah,” Emma admitted. “I do.”

“Oh,” Ruby said, and now she was chuckling a bit. “That’s cool. I just figured I had to ask you. Otherwise I’d never know, right?”

“Right,” Emma said, now smiling too. Regina had been right. Ruby didn’t look like her world would fall to pieces because of this. The waitress grinned and then asked: “Anyone I know?”

Emma raised an eyebrow in confusion.

“The one you fancy,” Ruby clarified with a chuckle. “Is it someone I know?”

“Well, uh-“

“Ruby, are you preventing our guest from enjoying her breakfast?” Eugenia interrupted and clicked her tongue.

“No, of course not. I know you’d skin me alive if I did, Granny,” Ruby said dead seriously. She winked at Emma and then disappeared back behind the counter.

Emma felt relieved. At least this had been taken care of. She had a feeling that she and Ruby would be great friends now.

 

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

 

She spent the rest of the morning writing. And counting the butterflies flickering around in her belly. She was painfully aware that Regina was on her way to Steveston.

Yeah, it was pretty hard to concentrate on writing, and Emma had to scold herself several times. Remind herself that she would never become a writer if she kept this up. So she had pulled herself together and had actually ended up finishing her twisted version of The Little Mermaid. It turned out pretty great, and Emma was satisfied. One more step towards actually finishing the book.

The blonde slowly rolled her head from side to side. She was starting to feel the dire absence of a desk and a chair in her room. For the past two weeks, she had been sitting in her bed with her legs crossed whenever she was writing, and with her head bowed over the screen. Not exactly the best idea. Did Steveston have a spa place? She would have to remember to search for one tomorrow. And if it turned out there was a spa place, Emma would definitely treat herself to a spa day. She had deserved that with all the hard, hard work she had been doing lately. Maybe being a test reader wasn’t physically exhausting, but it was mentally exhausting. She pretty much stuffed her mind with new information every single day. And reading wasn’t the only thing she did at Dragon Publishing. Sometimes she was called over to one of the laptops to help out with the editing process. Malena was slowly beginning to give her more responsibility, and Emma couldn’t be happier about it.

At 10:45 exactly, Emma headed downstairs to the restaurant once more. Screw being early.

But as opposed to the last time, the were actually people in the restaurant. The blonde quickly spotted Leroy and a couple of other people she only knew by appearance and not by name. Oh well. She hoped Regina wouldn’t mind that there would be a couple of other guests here.

Emma settled down at one of the tables in the corner. She noticed that Ruby was looking at her, but Emma decided not to order until Regina was here. That seemed like the politest thing to do.

The blonde leaned back slightly in her chair, tipping it back so it was balancing on two legs. A childhood habit she hadn’t been able to give up even though she was an adult now. A memory of Mary Margaret scolding her for it flickered before Emma’s inner eye. She pursed her lips slightly as she thought of her adoptive mother and the grey station car. She had promised herself not to think about it, but it was impossible. It kept coming back to her. Emma wondered if she should try and phone David. She was willing to bet all her money that he as usually had no clue what his wife was up to. Maybe she could tell him about the grey station car that had been following her. But then again, was it really worth the risk? Nope. Not really. She knew David. He wouldn’t come to her aid. He never had. And besides, she could risk that they somehow traced the phone call. Or worse yet, she could risk that Mary Margaret herself answered the phone. Emma really, really didn’t want to expose herself to that.

Instead she would wait. See if she saw the grey car again. And if Mary Margaret really was to show up in Steveston.... Well, Emma wouldn’t hesitate to contact the police and get a permanent restraining order. She should probably have done that years ago, but there had still been this tiny, naïve part of her that had hoped that things would get better.

But now she knew that they wouldn’t. Mary Margaret would never get better.

Emma sighed as she tipped the chair back onto all four legs. She had literally fled 2.613,6 miles. From Toronto to Vancouver. And yet Mary Margaret was still very much here. At least in her thoughts if not in the flesh.

Someone outside the window caught Emma’s attention, and she immediately stretched her neck to get a better look. All thoughts about her crazy adoptive mother quickly vanished when she spotted Regina. The brunette was crossing the road and walking towards Eugenia’s Inn. Emma fought the urge to go outside and greet the brunette. Instead she listened to the way her heart thudded in her chest as Regina opened the door to the restaurant and walked inside. God, she looked amazing! Woolen, figure fitting black slacks, and a tweed coat. Emma caught herself wondering what the brunette was wearing underneath the tweed coat.

The blonde eagerly stuck a hand in the air to let Regina know where she was, and it didn’t take long before Regina spotted her. The brunette smiled as she walked towards Emma’s table, and when she reached it, she offered a little nod.

Emma returned the nod and said: “hi”. God, Regina had literally just smiled. That was all. It really shouldn’t be enough for Emma to feel all gooey.

Regina offered another nod and a smile, reached within the pocket of her tweed coat and slipped Emma a post-it note.

Emma chuckled. The note said, ‘hello again.’. “It’s nice to see you again,” the blonde said.

Regina was in the process of unbuttoning her tweed coat, so she had to settle for smiling back at Emma. And honestly, Emma didn’t need further confirmation. Regina looked so beautiful when she smiled. It was a bit like being sucker punched right in the abdomen. Emma watched as the brunette slipped her coat of and carefully hung it over the back of the chair. Regina was wearing a blue blazer, black
camisole underneath, and a black silk scarf was tied around her neck.

“You ready for some coffee?” Emma asked as Regina sat down across her.

Regina nodded.

Emma waved a hand in the air again. But this time it was to catch Ruby’s attention. And soon the brunette waitress came over to the table and asked what she could do for them. Emma ordered coffee, and
Regina quickly reached within the pocket of her tweet coat and gave Ruby a note.

“Alright,” Ruby said and smiled. “I’ll find that for you.” With that she clack-clack’ed away from the table again.

“That was clever,” Emma said when she realized that Regina had written down her order beforehand.

Regina shrugged lightly and reached within the pocket of her tweet coat again. This time she found a stack of post-its and a pencil.

“How are you doing? How is Henry doing?” Emma asked, blurting out the first thing coming to mind. “Did he get some sleep last night?”

Regina was quick to bring the pencil to the first post-it note and began scribbling. She clearly didn’t think it was an odd question. After a moment of scribbling, she pushed the note across the table, and
Emma could read it: ‘Henry is doing alright now. But it took him a while to go back to sleep last night. I ended up spending the night on a makeshift bed in his room.’

“Oh,” Emma grimaced a bit. “I’m sorry to hear that. But I’m glad he’s doing better now.”

Regina nodded a little and then wrote a new message underneath the first one: ‘he is. He’s staying at a friend’s house right now, but I think he wanted to come along. He’s been talking a lot about your fairytales since the last time.’

Emma chuckled. “I’m glad to have found a fellow fairytale lover. Has he always loved fairytales?”

Regina nodded eagerly, tore the post-it off the stack and then wrote on the blank note. She was still writing when Ruby came over with their coffee, and so it was up to Emma to smile and thank Ruby. The waitress returned the smile, but Emma could see that she was also glancing curiously at the post-its on the table.

Once Ruby was gone, Emma turned her attention back to Regina and the post-it being pushed towards her: ‘yes, ever since he was a little boy. His baby books were fairytales. He has a whole bookshelf filled with fairytales. Sometimes it almost saddens me that he’ll grow out of it when he becomes a teenager.’

Emma chuckled. “You don’t know that for sure. He could still be into fairytales when he grows older.”

Regina raised an eyebrow and then scribbled underneath the first message. While she did that, Emma took a sip of her coffee. It was nice and warm. A moment later, Regina sat the pencil down and did the same. And then she pushed the post-it back to Emma. The blonde sat her cup of coffee down so she could concentrate on reading this new message: ‘it’s a nice thought, but I doubt it. Once he grows older, he’ll stop loving fairytales and begin loving his phone instead. But admittedly, sometimes I wish he could be ten years old forever. It’s such a funny age. Sometimes he acts like a little adult, but at the same time he’s still child enough to want to be hugged and kissed.’

Emma chuckled again, teased lightly: “And you don’t think he’ll want to be hugged and kissed when he becomes a teenager?”

Regina shook her head firmly.

“Maybe he’ll surprise you,” Emma snickered. “Maybe he’ll be different from all the other teenagers.”

Regina shook her head, tore a new post-it note off the stack and wrote. Her elbow brushed against the cup of coffee, and Emma quickly reached and moved the coffee cup. It would be a shame if Regina knocked the cup of coffee over in her eagerness.

And then another note was slid towards her. Emma was quick to bow her head: ‘I doubt it. Henry is special I’ll give you, but I don’t think that he’ll deviate much from the teenage cliché.’

Emma grinned at the brunette. “And what is the teenage cliché then?”

Words were quickly scribbled underneath the first message. ‘Sullen. Moody. Uninterested. Barricading himself in his room. Saying whatever constantly.’

Now Emma spluttered. “That was very on point.”

Regina nodded, shrugged, tore off a new post-it, scribbled and then slipped Emma the note. ‘I was just using all the things I can remember from my own teenage years.’

Emma laughed a little. “So you were a moody teenager then?”

Regina nodded firmly and took a sip of her coffee before she scribbled again. Emma found the sound of the pencil scraping against the paper very soothing, and now she realized that was the sound she had missed since Regina was here the last time.

And then another note was pushed towards her. Emma quickly swallowed a mouthful of coffee and ignored her sore muscles as she bowed her head over the note: ‘yes, terribly moody. And also incredibly gangly and awkward. I hoped Henry will be spared of that.’

“No way, you were beautiful as a teenager!” Emma blurted out before she could stop herself. Then she realized what she had just said and cringed. Idiot, idiot, idiot! Now she really had stepped in it. She couldn’t exactly explain this away. There were no explanations to give as to why she knew how Regina looked as a teenager.

And Regina looked rightfully confused. She raised an eyebrow and looked at pending at Emma in an “explain”-manner.

Emma blushed profusely as she rushed and tried to explain as best as she could: “Malena asked me to find a folder when I was at work the other day, and when I tried to grab it, it was stuck between two other folders. One of them fell on the floor and all the papers in it landed everywhere on the floor, and between some of the papers there was a picture stuffed away. A picture of you and her. As teenagers.” As she finished the little story, she dared looking at Regina.

Regina still looked a bit confused, but Emma was sure she could see a twinge of red rise in olive cheeks. Was Regina blushing? Yep, it definitely seemed like it. And obviously, she looked incredibly attractive when doing so. Emma kinda wished she had ordered cold water instead of hot coffee. She could have used something to cool her down right now.

Regina ripped another post-it note off the stack and began scribbling away on it. Her cheeks were still a bit pink, Emma noted. The blonde tried to look at the note being pushed across the table, and not the color in Regina’s cheeks. The note was more important, she told herself as she looked down to read: ‘Oh, I see. Well, Malena has always been a bit of a collector. And especially a collector of memories.
But still, it surprises me that she still has pictures lying around in strange places.’

“Maybe that’s why it’s called Dragon Publishing?” Emma suggested.

Regina raised an eyebrow again.

“Aren’t dragon’s hoarders or something like that?” Emma said halfheartedly.

Regina looked amused at that and nodded. Her dark brown eyes twinkled slightly. Then she scribbled on a new post-it, and soon there was a new note for Emma to read: ‘still, it was a long time ago. I’m assuming we looked happy in the picture?’

“You did,” Emma confirmed. “You sort of.... had your arms around each other.”

Regina shook her head, made a silent chuckle sound and then scribbled underneath for a moment before removing the pencil so Emma could read what she had written. ‘Those were the days. It’s such a long time ago now, so much has happened since. It feels like it was a different life.’

“Yeah,” Emma said simply. She didn’t need more confirmation than this. She knew that Regina knew that she knew. However complicated it sounded.

The blonde could sense that it was time to change the subject. But maybe she was still busy processing what Regina had just “as good as” confirmed, because she ended up blurting out: “the weather is getting colder, huh?” she immediately cringed. Was she seriously talking about the weather? Nice one, Swan. Terrific.

But Regina just glanced out of the window, nodded and then rubbed her arms in a way that suggested that it was cold walking here from the car.

“Speaking of cold weather,” Emma said, now suddenly seeing an opportunity and grabbing it.

Regina raised an eyebrow and waited.

“When I was at the library, I saw a brochure for this... harvest festival happening by the end of the month,” Emma started and noted that she sounded croakier than normal.

Regina nodded in a way that strongly indicated that she knew all about the harvest festival taking place in Steveston.

“It sounds like a really cool arrangement,” Emma continued. Her palms were growing sweaty. She discreetly wiped them on her jeans. “And I’ve never actually been to a harvest festival before.”

Regina raised an eyebrow as though she didn’t quite believe that.

“Yeah, I know,” Emma said. “Anyway, it seems like everyone is going with someone, so I was wondering if...” incredible. She ran out of words. Just like that.

Regina looked politely confused now.

Emma panicked slightly. Damn it. Pull yourself together, Swan! Keep. Talking. “I was wondering if you’d be interested in coming to the harvest festival?” she said quickly. “I know you’ve probably already been to a million harvest festivals already, and I know it’s a pretty long drive for you, but... I don’t know, I just figured it could be nice to go with someone I actually know better than I know the people living here,” Emma concluded her frantic ramble and felt less than satisfied. She hadn’t been half as smooth as she had hoped for.

And for a moment she thought she saw something in Regina’s dark eyes. A slight flicker of something that could have been panic. Then her eyes flickered slightly, and Emma felt as though she had to say something more.

“You could bring Henry?” she suggested. “If he’s into harvest festivals that is. I don’t know if he wants to come or not, but if he does, I’d totally be down to talk more fairytale stuff with him.”

Now Regina just looked surprised. Plain and simple. Like she couldn’t quite believe her own ears. Her lips were moving, saying words that Emma had no chance of hearing.

The blonde leaned back in her chair. Now she was the one who was blushing, and her voice was hushed when she mumbled: “I just figured I’d... ask.”
It seemed as though Regina was lost in thoughts for a while. Her dark eyes didn’t focus on anything in particular. She looked like she was miles away.

Emma was getting nervous. And it hadn’t even been a proper date suggestion. At least not yet. But now she was getting anxious and afraid that Regina wouldn’t even say yes to this. The brunette was frowning slightly, and her dark eyes were still flickering slightly. Emma wetted her lips and felt tempted to tip back on her chair or bite her nails. She often indulged in that when she was nervous. It wouldn’t look very good to sit and bite her nails in a restaurant though, so she settled for wiping her sweaty palms on her jeans and then anxiously chewing on the inside of her cheek.

But then Regina nodded once, a hesitant smile blossoming on her lips.

“Yeah?” Emma asked hopefully and felt every bit like an idiot.

Regina found another post-it from the stack and scribbled for a moment. Then she handed Emma the note, and the blonde immediately bowed her head so she could read: ‘both Henry and I would like that. The harvest festival is quite special, and especially the first time you see it. It would be a shame if you didn’t have anyone to share that experience with.’

Emma smiled as she looked up. She couldn’t think of anyone better to share it with. But of course she didn’t say that. Instead she looked down again to read what Regina had scribbled underneath: ‘but I must warn you, Henry is a bit of a chatterbox.’

Emma chuckled lightly. “That’s fine by me.”

Regina scribbled something on a new post-it, and this time Emma’s neck gave a faint crick as she bowed her head to read: ‘he’ll undoubtedly talk for the both of us.’

Emma’s neck gave another crick as she quickly looked up at Regina, scanning the brunette’s face. Was that another joke?

Regina quirked an eyebrow, clearly amused. She was obviously joking again.

Emma couldn’t help but laugh. She had always been a sucker for dark humor. “That’s okay too,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the kid again. He was very smart and funny the last time.”

Regina gave a gentle nod at that, and her smile went from teasing to warm at the mention of her son.

Emma wanted to fist pump the air. She didn’t give two shits whether it was a childish thing to do or not. She had just succeed in inviting Regina to the harvest festival! And Henry too. Yes, Emma was nervous at the prospect of spending time with Regina’s son, but right now she felt as though she could do anything.

 

 

 

 

 

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