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To Hear Her Voice In The Silence

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Emma and Regina had agreed to meet up for coffee the following Thursday when Emma was done with her work at Dragon Publishing. The agreement was that Emma would text Regina once she was done working, and then Regina would leave and time it so they could meet at Eugenia’s Inn when Emma arrived home.

Emma was looking forward to it. Especially because nothing had happened since she had spotted the grey station car and the man in the parking lots. There had been no sightings, no mysterious cars and no more unwanted visitors in her room. Once again, everything was calm. And honest god, Emma wasn’t completely sure whether she should feel relieved or be alarmed. It was exhausting really, having to stay alert like this all the time.

She was allowing herself a break on Thursday. A few hours where she refused to think about strange men and grey station cars appearing in her rearview mirror. On Thursday, it would just be about her and Regina. A third date. Emma couldn’t wait. She was so looking forward to seeing Regina again. And see for herself that Regina really was okay. At night, when Emma wasn’t thinking about the man in the parking lot, she was thinking about the look in Regina’s eyes after she had kissed her. That brief moment of panic before Regina had “sobered up” and smiled and patted Emma’s cheek.

Emma had been thinking a lot about that. So far, she hadn’t been able to come up with a reasonable explanation, but it sure as hell kept her awake at night. The only “kind of”-explanation she had come up with was that maybe Regina hadn’t been in a relationship in a while, and that’s why the kiss had come as a surprise to her. Perhaps she hadn’t expected Emma to go for it that quickly. But Emma had just followed her instincts and done the only thing she could have done in that moment. Kissing Regina.

But obviously, Emma now wondered if it had been the right thing to do. Maybe it had been too soon. Because while it felt like she and Regina had known each other for a long, long time, this was only their third date. Emma had to bear that in mind all the time. She would let Regina initiate things on the next date. She would let Regina set the pace. Emma reminded herself that they weren’t in a hurry. They had all the time in the world to get to know each other. Emma felt very good about that. She felt good about thinking of all the dates with Regina there was to come.

But Emma’s brain didn’t always get the memo about not getting ahead of herself. There had been nights where she had been thinking.... Well, other things about Regina. She couldn’t help it. Sometimes these thoughts about Regina just entered her mind without permission.

On those occasions, Emma always took a cold shower the morning after. That usually helped with cooling her down and making her think about something else.

But fortunately enough, Emma also had other things to think about. Her writing and her work at Dragon Publishing. She was still working on her fairytales, but she was in the ending phase now, in the middle of clearing up all lose ends and revealing how everything was actually connected in the end. She was really looking forward to hearing Malena’s reaction to that stroke of genius, and surprise ending. And because the fairytales were so close to being finished, Emma had actually dared to start writing on something new. Something that wasn’t a fairytale. A story in which the main character embarked on a long train ride towards another life, fell asleep in her seat and then was awakened by a tap to her shoulder....

Emma couldn’t help that either. She simply had to write about meeting Regina on the train. The chance encounter was a little too amazing to not write about. Regina had become her muse. Unofficially, of course. Obviously, Emma weren’t using their real names. Instead she named herself “Willa”, and Regina had become “Helena”. She had no idea whether she would ever show this new story to anyone, or simply keep it to herself. Maybe this story was just for her to read. A way to “cope” with how much she missed Regina when they weren’t together.

Maybe she would show the story to Regina. One day. If she had the courage. If she dared. Emma still hadn’t decided whether that would be a good idea or not. She wasn’t sure how Regina would feel about being her muse. Maybe she wouldn’t like it. Maybe she would think that it was strange.

And maybe Emma wouldn’t show her the story at all. Maybe she wouldn’t show it to anyone. Maybe she would simply keep it all to herself and then one day enjoy the finished result.

As for the fairytales, everything was coming together nicely. Emma still couldn’t quite believe that she was actually in the finishing phase. After having been writing on them on and off for so long, it almost seemed impossible, and she couldn’t wait to send the updated version to Malena. To see what she thought about it. Emma didn’t dare hoping for a publication. She was still afraid to have big dreams. Undoubtedly because Mary Margaret always had berated Emma for her “hobby”. She had constantly told Emma that writing wasn’t something you could actually do for a living. It wasn’t a “proper” job. Emma had tried to disagree with her a few times, but Mary Margaret had completely overheard her, and continued with her lecture. A lecture she had given Emma many, many times over the years.

There had been an occasion where she actually had forbidden Emma to write anything besides schoolwork. She claimed that it was an “unhealthy” hobby, and she furthermore claimed that writing would only feed Emma’s “wild” imagination and maybe even cause her to make stuff up and start to lie.

Emma had tried to protest. She had even went to David and tried to make him talk to Mary Margaret about it, but he had just shrugged, patted the top of Emma’s head and then said something about that it was for Emma’s own good.

To this day, Emma was still flabbergasted about that. She still struggled to believe that there had been a time where Mary Margaret actually had forbidden her to write. Had forbidden her to do something she loved. Instead Mary Margaret had signed Emma up for ballet lessons. Ballet lessons. Emma had been begging to be allowed to take horseback riding lessons, but Mary Margaret had forbidden that as well. And then she had listed about a million reasons why Emma absolutely not was allowed to take riding lessons. The horse could throw Emma off. Emma could be walking behind it, and then the horse would kick back and hit her in the head. Mary Margaret had proceed to in gory details describe how wrong things could go. Emma had been scared to even approach a horse for years.

So ballet lessons it had been. And it had not been a success. Emma wasn’t very good at ballet. She wasn’t nearly as graceful as some of the other girls. The proportions didn’t match. While the other girls on the team were petite, Emma was taller and more gangly. She didn’t like going to the ballet lessons. The other girls had laughed at her, and none of them wanted to talk to her. There had been a time where one of the girls had been having a birthday party, and she had invited everyone on the team. Except for Emma. Emma had been devastated about it, but she had never told anyone. Instead she had just forced herself go keep going to the lessons, had forced herself to endure it. She’d had a naïve dream about suddenly becoming really good at it, and then Mary Margaret would be really proud of her.

That had never happened, though. Instead Emma had managed to trip during a particular hard lesson. She had landed right on her ankle, and she had screamed out in pain.

She had ended up in the hospital. Her ankle had been x-rayed, and it had quickly been revealed that it was broken. The doctor had put a cast on her ankle, and Mary Margaret had been summoned. In the hospital, she acted like every concerned mother would, but that wasn’t quite what happened a few days after when the ballet teacher stopped by their house to see how Emma was doing. Once she had delivered the mandatory “feel better soon”, she had gone into the kitchen and talked to Mary Margaret. Emma had heard how the ballet teacher said that perhaps it was better if Emma quit the lessons all together instead of re-joining the team when her ankle was healed. The ballet teacher had gently suggested that maybe ballet wasn’t exactly up Emma’s street, and maybe there were better hobbies for her. More suitable ones. Emma had been relieved. Until the ballet teacher had left and Mary Margaret had come back into the living room. Mary Margaret hadn’t hesitated to tell Emma just how disappointed she was. And then she had more than implied that perhaps breaking her ankle was Emma’s punishment for not trying hard enough.

Emma had just turned seven. And the whole ballet fiasco had been her first indicator that maybe Mary Margaret wasn’t as nice as she had appeared to be at first.

And oh, how right she had been in her assumption. The ballet lessons had only been the first taste of Mary Margaret’s manipulative, controlling nature. Snow White’s true nature.

Emma shook her head, blinked and tried to focus on her laptop. Why was she thinking about all of this right now? She wasn’t supposed to be thinking about Mary Margaret and her terror regime right now.

She was trying to put all of that behind her. And she couldn’t do that if she kept thinking about it. She turned her attention back to the word document on the screen in front of her. As much as she was itching to write about “Willa” and “Helena”, she knew she had to finish her fairytales first. They had been so long in the making now, and Emma couldn’t wait to see the finished result. And she had plenty of time to write this afternoon. For once she didn’t have plans with Elsa or Isabelle. She had taken this afternoon off to write. To get a chance to finally finish her fairytales, but also to distract herself from the fact that tomorrow was Thursday. And the day she and Regina would be having their third date. Another coffee appointment. It was funny, really. Emma hadn’t actually meant to ask Regina out for coffee. Her intention had been to suggest meeting up for dinner at some nice restaurant, but she had been so relieved to finally hear from Regina that she had just suggested the first thing that came to mind.

Next time. Next time she would definitely ask Regina out for a meal. Coffee seemed so shoddy after Regina had brought her along to the most amazing concert. Next time, Emma would definitely suggest something a bit more fancy than just coffee at Eugenia’s Inn. Obviously, there was nothing wrong with Eugenia’s Inn, but Emma would have preferred the more intimate feeling of a nice restaurant.

Oh well. You couldn’t win every time, and there would be plenty of opportunities to invite Regina out to dinner. And seeing Henry. Emma hoped she could get a chance to hang out with Regina’s kid again.
Emma liked him, and it seemed like a very important thing to do now that she and Regina were “officially” dating. Henry was the most important person in Regina’s life, and Emma wanted him to like her. She so wanted him to like her. Sometimes it still made her feel a bit insecure, thinking about the fact that Regina had a child. Emma wasn’t used to dating women who had children, but the urge to succeed at it had never been stronger than it was right now....

 

Emma felt excited when she woke up the next morning, and she was perfectly capable of ignoring the slight dizzy spell she felt when she hopped out of bed far too quickly. She was going to meet Regina for coffee. It was going to be an amazing day. How could she possibly be feeling anything but happy?

The blonde even went as far as singing as she went into the bathroom to take a shower. The running water drowned most of the sound, and maybe that was a good thing. For some reason, she doubted that anyone else would find it delightful to hear her perform “Whistle While You Work” in her rusty morning-voice.

And who knew, maybe it was karma who had decided to punish Emma for singing so lousy. The blonde spluttered and coughed when she ended up getting shampoo in her mouth, and then she laughed heartedly. Not even this could lessen her good mood.

She resumed her shower but refrained from more singing. Choking on shampoo was not quite on her schedule today. Instead she thoroughly washed her hair and then practically smothered it in coconut condition. Not that she was expecting Regina to sniff her hair or anything, but Emma had noted that Regina’s hair (and skin) always smelled wonderful. Emma wanted to smell wonderful too. You never knew, maybe Regina would come so close to her that she could smell the coconut conditioner in Emma’s hair. Emma hoped so. As she was hoping for a second kiss. A kiss that wouldn’t come as a complete surprise to Regina. Because Emma felt confident that that was what had caused Regina’s anticlimactic reaction after they had shared their first kiss. Regina had been taken by surprise by the gesture, and Emma couldn’t blame her. She hadn’t given many signs that she was going to kiss the brunette. She had pretty much just seen and opportunity and grasped it. But she would do better the next time. She would handle it a bit more elegantly. Regina deserved that. Regina DEFINITELY deserved that.

Emma finally rinsed the conditioner out of her hair. The result was silky soft and very, very satisfying. After having rinsed a couple of times to make sure that there wasn’t any conditioner left in her hair, she switched the water off, grabbed a towel and then quickly dried herself. Then she padded back into her bedroom and changed into her usual jeans and tanktop attire. It was very comfortable to sit and work in, but not very festive for dating. Emma had every intention of changing into something a bit nicer when she came back from work. She had time to do that before she was going to meet Regina for coffee. Well, actually she hadn’t, but if she hurried, she could make it.

Emma spent quite a while on brushing her hair and then sniffing it intensely to make sure that it really did smell of coconut. It did. Quite intensely, actually. There was a slight chance she might have overdone it just a tad. Oh well. Maybe she should have spent less time on singing and more time on concentrating on minding how much conditioner she used.

Oh well. Too late to do anything about that now. What’s done is done, Emma thought to herself as she decided to just let her hair hang loose and curly down her back. Now it was time to leave, otherwise she would end up being late for work.

Emma went downstairs and found Ruby behind the counter. She looked exactly like someone who’d had a very long night. Emma grinned and almost had to bite her tongue not to comment on it. Instead she settled for a casual yet perky: “good morning!”

Ruby looked up and cringed a bit. “Good morning, Ems.”

Emma once again bit back a grin. There were dark circles underneath Ruby’s eyes, and the way she was cringing told Emma that she clearly was suffering from some pretty serious hangovers. Despite trying her utmost not to laugh, Emma ended up chuckling a bit.

“You’re in a good mood,” Ruby commented.

“Yep,” Emma said plainly and grinned again.

“Any particular reason?” Ruby asked and raised an eyebrow.

“Does there have to be a reason?” Emma retorted, still grinning.

Ruby grimaced again. “No, I suppose not, but could you at least whisper? I’m so hungover!”

“Really?” Emma said innocently. “Woops! I had no idea.”

Ruby lifted a wet dishtowel and threatened Emma with it.

Emma grinned as she ducked. “See you later, Rubes.”

“I hope Malena will give you lots and lots of work,” Ruby grumbled.

Emma laughed heartedly as she walked out of the diner and crossed the parking lot.

She was still chuckling by the time she reached the yellow bug. Ruby clearly had a fun night out last night. And was paying for it this morning. Emma shook her head in amusement as she unlocked the door and climbed inside the car. She inserted the key and then switched the engine on. Then she frowned slightly. Didn’t that sound a little funny? She switched the engine off and then on again. Hmm.

Now the car sounded just fine. Weird. Oh well. She had probably just been being pushing the engine too hard. Billy had warned her about that. Now Emma was the one who cringed. She had to take better care of her faithful little car. Otherwise it wouldn’t last long. At least that was what Billy had said, and Emma believed him. After all, he was a mechanic. He knew his stuff.

Emma gently stepped on the speeder as she maneuvered the car around and away from the parking lot. The engine still sounded completely normal, and that was a relief.

 

The car continued to sound completely normal, and Emma felt ever so relieved when she parked on the parking lot in front of Dragon Publishing. The blonde swiftly exited the car and walked towards the familiar building. Ruby had actually been right. Emma had a pretty busy day ahead of her. She had more editing to do, and possibly another manuscript to proofread. If she could squeeze it in. The manuscript she was working on, needed lots of editing.

Once inside, she found Ursula at the front desk as always. The woman looked up and smiled as Emma approached, and Emma offered a smile and a “good morning”, and then she amusedly wondered whether Ursula and Malena had any “meetings” today, and then she marveled at how the heck nobody else had found out about it. Because now that Emma knew the truth, she found that it was almost painfully obvious what was going on between Malena and Ursula, but no one in the building had ever questioned it. Maybe Emma was just imagining that it was obvious because she knew the truth, or maybe everyone actually did know what was going on but chose to ignore it because they were scared Malena would be going all “dragon” on them.

Emma chuckled a little to herself as she went inside the elevator. She could easily imagine Malena go all dragon on anyone who dared questioning her. Malena wasn’t an unreasonable boss, but she definitely didn’t tolerate any “nonsense” as she called it.

The elevator came to a stop, and Emma slipped out of it. She was still smiling as she walked down the hallway and towards her own little office. Which by the way wouldn’t be “her” office for much longer. Malena had promised her another office. A different one. A better one with more space. A more official one, as Malena had put it. Emma was a part of the team now. And she couldn’t be more pleased or proud about that. She felt like a part of the team, and she loved working at Dragon Publishing. Getting this job had been an impossible dream come true. Something Emma had hoped, but never fully dared believing ever would happen. But it had, and Emma was starting to think that maybe she should allow herself to dream big when it came to her writing as well. Maybe she should allow herself to believe that she one day would have something published. Maybe it was okay to dream big.

Emma pushed the door to her office open and fumbled with her bag at the same time. After a few seconds of wrestling, she managed to unzip it. She found her laptop and settled down by the desk. Now it was time to work. Emma stretched her neck, rolled her head from side to side. Maybe Eugenia had in fact been right about the mattresses not being the best. Emma had gotten this slight ache right between her shoulder blades. Very annoying. And another reminder that she was still living in a hotel. She would have to find somewhere else to live soon. It was fine right now when it was autumn, but what would happen when summer arrived, and the place would be crawling with tourists? Eugenia was going to need all the rooms then.

Emma would have to find some sort of permanent solution soon. She couldn’t keep living in a hotel for the rest of her days. She had to put down some roots. But the problem was that she couldn’t afford the house of her dreams. It was simply too expensive. Unfortunately.

Maybe she could move into an apartment or something like that. A one bedroom apartment. Just temporarily. Just until she had enough money to rent the other house. Emma leaned back in the creaky office chair. Was she dreaming big again?

No. No, she wasn’t. Wanting to either rent or buy a house wasn’t that crazy. In fact it was something that would have made Mary Margaret proud. She had always kept going on and on and on about how Emma lived in “small and horrible” apartments, and how could she possibly want to settle for that? But at the same time, Mary Margaret had plain refused to help Emma financially. Unless Emma did two teeny tiny things for her. A: stopped being gay, and B: started to be interested in Blanchard’s Boarding School. That had been the “conditions”, and the way she had said it had clearly implicated that she couldn’t imagine that Emma was going to say no.

But oh, how Emma had said no! And then she had laughed hysterically because the suggestion had been so utterly absurd. Mary Margaret had yelled that Emma was an ungrateful little brat, and then she had hung up.

Emma had still being laughing five minutes later. A disbelieving “I can’t believe she actually said that” kind of laughter.

The blonde blinked. She was getting distracted at work. Again. Damn it. She would seriously have to work on that. She was quick to turn her attention back to manuscript in front of her and silently groaned a bit over how much editing it needed. Oh well, at least working alone came with some perks. Emma fished her phone and earbuds out of her bag and then connected the two’s. She always worked better and a little faster when there was a solid beat in her ear. Something that could make her perk up a bit. It always worked, and it did today as well. Emma immediately went to work and began editing as though her life depended on it. The harder and faster she worked, the quicker the day would go, and a workday that was done meant coffee with Regina. A real treat to look forward to. Emma grinned and then hummed along to the song playing in her ears. She thought about Ruby and her hangovers. Poor thing. Coming to work with hangovers was never fun. Emma had been there a few times. Especially after one of her fights with Mary Margaret. She was glad that she wasn’t hungover today. Actually she hadn’t been drinking for a while now, and she was quite proud of that. When she lived in Toronto, she had definitely been a little too fond of the bottle.

 

*********

 

Yes, Emma loved her job, but admittedly, she loved getting off work even more today, and she was one big grin as she left her office. She felt as light as a feather as she headed inside the elevator, and even lighter when the elevator came to a stop and she could exit it. She flashed Ursula a big smile as she walked past the front desk.

“Have a nice day,” Ursula said, and raised an eyebrow. She clearly found Emma’s behavior to be slightly strange.

“You too,” Emma said, not caring one bit whether her behavior could be considered odd or not. She was in a good mood, and she was damn well going to show it. To everyone. Even the ever annoying

August earned himself a friendly slap on the shoulder as Emma passed him.

He looked up in surprise. “What’s up with you, Swanny?”

“Nothing,” Emma said innocently. “Just on my way home from work.”

“Oh yeah? And what are you doing after work?” he asked and raised an eyebrow.

Emma just smiled and shrugged lightly.

“You have a date, haven’t you?” August asked.

“Maybe.”

“You totally do!” he exclaimed. “Tell me more.”

“Nope,” Emma teased. “None of your business.” She always had way too much fun with teasing August. And mainly because it was so easy.

“Do you know how annoying I find you?” August asked.

“Yep,” Emma said simply and sniggered at the look on August’s face.

“You’re very annoying when you’re in a good mood,” August commented.

“Have a nice day,” Emma teased as she continued walking towards the front door.

“Do you have a date?!” August called after her.

“Bye-bye,” Emma called over her shoulder and gave him a teasing wave.

He grumbled something after her, but Emma was far too busy laughing at him to actually paying attention.

And she was still chuckling when she made it out on the parking lot. Today was another nippy day, but today she actually didn’t care. Because tomorrow she was finally going out and buying that parka coat. Finally. She wanted to be prepared for the winter that would undoubtedly be coming soon.

Emma whistled quietly as she crossed the parking lot. She found her car keys in bottom of her bag and rolled her eyes for a moment. Why did they always end up in the bottom of her bag?

Emma unlocked the car and hopped in. She dumped the bag on the passenger seat and then slipped the key into the engine and twisted it slightly.

Nothing happened.

Emma’s brow furrowed slightly as she tried again.

The engine spluttered, almost as though it was coughing. But that was about it. Nothing happened.

Now Emma was frowning deeply as she removed the key and then re-inserted it. Come on, car. Come on. Please.

Her silent plead didn’t help one bit. The engine spluttered, coughed, sounded a bit like someone who was having an asthma attack, but still absolutely nothing was happening.

“Damn it!” Emma cursed loudly. Just what she needed. Okay. Focus, Swan. Stay calm. She exited the car, went round and then opened the hood to take a peek at what was going on. Which seemingly wasn’t much. Emma had hoped that white smoke would ooze out in a very filmish manner when she opened the hood, but absolutely nothing of the sort happened. Emma couldn’t see shit. She was a fucking mechanic. She had no idea what could be wrong with the car.

But she did know that she was in a hurry to get home. She had important plans, damnit! Emma cursed a bit more for good measurement as she found her phone and googled when the next bus would leave for Steveston.

In twenty minutes. Twenty FUCKING minutes. Emma cursed loudly once more. Taking the bus would definitely delay her. And not just a little, but a huge freaking lot. God damn it. Emma sighed deeply as she tapped a bit on her phone and did the only thing she could do right now. Text Regina and inform her that she was going to be very delayed due to car troubles and that she would try and catch a bus.
Emma made sure to apologize profusely to the brunette. There was a fair chance that Regina would suggest they rescheduled, and thus, Emma’s good mood completely went down the drain as she spun around and began walking towards the busstop. She was already cold, damn it!

But she had barely left the parking lot before she felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. The blonde stopped momentarily and fished her phone out of her pocket to check the message: ‘oh, I’m sorry to hear about your car. The bus ride is going to take a while, though. Wouldn’t it be better if I picked you up?’

Emma’s jaw dropped slightly as she quickly texted back: ‘seriously?’

The reply came immediately: ‘yes, of course. It’s practically on the way to Steveston. It’s not gonna be a problem at all.’

Emma’s good mood returned as she texted: ‘oh my god, thank you so much! You’re a lifesaver. I’ll be in the parking lot.’

The response to that came quickly too: ‘Excellent. I’ll be there shortly.’

Emma grinned as she turned around and went back towards the parking lot. Regina hadn’t even considered to reschedule. She had just more or less taken it for granted that of course she would be picking Emma up for their date. God, Emma was falling more and more in love with her every day.

Huh. Emma paused her walk back and forward in the parking lot. She still wasn’t completely used to so casually admitting to herself that she was in love with Regina. After Lily, she had sworn that she would never open her heart to anyone ever again, and now that was exactly what she had done. But the stunning thing about it was the fact that it didn’t scare her. At all. Falling in love with Regina seemed to be the easiest, most natural thing in the world. Emma sighed as she thought about the beautiful brunette who was coming to pick her up. The beautiful brunette she couldn’t wait to see again.

Thinking about Regina was just about the only thing that could distract her from how bone-chillingly cold it was today. It was definitely more winter than autumn. Emma rubbed her arms and resumed walking back and forward in the parking lot. She looked down at her jeans and scowled slightly. Because of this delay, she definitely wouldn’t get the chance to change into something a bit fancier. Damn it. This was her work clothes. Emma felt underdressed. Even though this was only coffee and not a fancy concert, she had still wanted to do a little extra, and now she couldn’t get the chance to do that.

The blonde scowled again. Damn unlucky she was.

She rubbed her arms again. It was really cold. Emma was grateful she didn’t have to sit and wait in a bus shed for twenty minutes. This was bearable. Knowing that her ride was on the way made this bearable. And knowing that the ride happened to be Regina almost made Emma forget entirely about the cold.

Emma glanced at her yellow bug again. Stupid car. She wondered what was the matter with it. She found her phone in her bag once more and quickly dialed Billy’s number. She brought the phone up to her ear and waited for a moment. Then Billy picked up, and Emma explained what had happened. Billy gave her a little bit of a lecture about old cars and delicate engines, and after Emma had agreed and admitted that she might have pushed the engine a bit, he told her not to worry. He would swing by the parking lot in a few hours with his truck and then bring the bug back to Steveston and fix it for her. Emma thanked him profusely, and Billy chuckled and warned her that she “owed him one”. Emma more than agreed to that and promised to think of some way to repay him. Billy cheekily suggested that she could pay for his coffee for the next month, and Emma laughed heartedly at that suggestion, but a small part of her hoped that he wasn’t actually serious. She couldn’t afford to buy him coffee for the next month. She had a feeling that Billy was bleeding caffeine.

The timing couldn’t be better. Just as Emma had ended the call with Billy, she saw the familiar black Mercedes pull up in front of the building. The blonde quickly slipped her phone back inside her bag and then ran her fingers through her hair. The wind had made it a bit messy.

The door to the Mercedes opened, and then Regina stepped out on the pavement. Looking every bit as perfect as the last time. She was wearing a pin striped pencil skirt, a matching blazer and a white blouse underneath. And of course a silk scarf was tied elegantly around her neck. It definitely added to the look, but Emma knew that the scarf wasn’t just a fashion statement, and she felt a slight pinch in her belly as she thought about what was hiding underneath that scarf.

But Regina was smiling as she walked towards Emma, and Emma quickly forgot all about her pinching belly as she returned the smile tenfold. She began walking towards Regina, having every intention to greet the brunette and thank her for the ride first thing.

But someone beat her to it. “Regina?”

Emma turned around. She hadn’t even seen that Malena had come outside, but there she was, shielded away from the wind and smoking a cigarette like she often did during her breaks.

Regina turned her head slightly as to identify where the sound came from, and then she flashed Malena a slight smile.

Emma watched as the older blonde walked towards Regina.

“It’s nice to see you again,” Malena said as she reached Regina. “It’s been far too long.”

Regina offered an apologetic little gesture at that.

“Are you feeling alright?” Malena asked.

Regina nodded at that and flashed Malena another little smile.

“Good.” Malena said. “I’m glad to see you. And I don’t want to loose contact with you again. Text me, alright? Don’t be a stranger.”

Regina offered another little apologetic smile and nodded once more.

“Good,” Malena said, flashed Regina a smile and then she leaned forward and gave Regina very, very light peck on the cheek. “You take care of yourself, alright?”

Regina nodded again and smiled.

“Excellent,” Malena said. She touched the top of Regina’s shoulder lightly, and then she turned around and walked towards her car. Before heading inside she turned her head and said to Emma: “I’ll see
you tomorrow, miss Swan.”

“Yeah,” Emma nodded. “See you.”

Malena disappeared inside her car and drove off, and Emma turned her attention back to Regina. Maybe she could get a chance to greet her now.

She quickly walked over to the brunette and then smiled and said: “hey.”

Regina smiled back, reached within the pocket of her blazer and handed Emma a post-it note.

Emma smiled when she read: ‘hello, Emma. It’s nice to see you again.’ in fact she felt so utterly tempted to kiss Regina right then and there, but she didn’t do it.

Regina didn’t initiate a kiss either. Instead she simply reached out and touched Emma’s forearm lightly. Emma drew her hair behind her ear and smiled almost shyly at the soft touch. Then she looked at
Regina’s face. What she saw made her frown slightly, though. Regina looked a bit tired. She had dark circles underneath her eyes that not even her flawless makeup could hide entirely. Emma felt tempted to ask if everything was okay, but again, something held her back.

After a moment or so, Regina moved her hand away again, she nodded towards her car and then rubbed her arms in a very telltale manner.

“Yeah,” Emma said and nodded. “Let’s get going. It’s pretty cold out here.”

Together they walked towards Regina’s car, and Emma climbed into onto the passenger’s seat. And like the last time, she marveled at how nice this car was. Seriously, the damn thing smelled of leather.

Regina was a very good driver. She didn’t drive half as aggressively as Emma did, and the blonde chuckled slightly. She could probably learn a lot from Regina.

“She was happy to see you,” Emma said rather suddenly, and she saw how Regina side eyed her.

“Malena, I mean,” Emma clarified.

Regina shrugged lightly as best as she could behind the wheel.

“Can I ask you something?” Emma asked lightly.

Regina nodded.

“Were you and Malena more than friends at some point?” Emma inquired, now daring to ask the question which answer she already had stumbled on by accident, but still wanted confirmed by Regina
herself.

Regina side eyed her again, and Emma was certain she saw a faint blush rise in tanned cheeks. Then Regina nodded once.

“Okay,” Emma said plainly. She hadn’t been heading in a particular direction with her question. She just wanted Regina to confirm what she already knew.

Regina tapped the button on the radio once, and Emma nodded. “Yeah, sure. I don’t mind a bit of music.”

Regina switched the radio on and soon Billie Holliday’s voice filled the car. Emma leaned back in the ridiculously comfortable seats and enjoyed the music. Of course she understood that she couldn’t talk
to Regina right now. The brunette was driving and therefore had no opportunity to communicate back.

Emma settled for looking at her now and then. She tried not to look too intensely at Regina. That only made her worry about the dark circle’s underneath Regina’s eyes, and most likely it would make her blurt out questions.

Questions that Regina probably wouldn’t answer. Emma didn’t know why she knew that Regina wouldn’t answer. She just did. She couldn’t explain it.

 

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

 

But the date was wonderful.

They arrived at Eugenia’s Inn and ordered coffee. Well, Emma ordered coffee for both of them and then a slice of pie for Regina.

Regina looked quite surprised at that, but Emma just shrugged lightly. “Henry mentioned how much you loved pie when we were at the harvest festival.”

Regina looked even more surprised at that and reached within her purse, found the stack of post-its and then scribbled for a brief moment before handing the note to Emma.

“Yep. I do,” Emma confirmed after having read the message ‘and you remember that?’ she neglected to tell Regina that she remembered every last detail Regina had ever shared with her.

Regina shook her head and then reached within her purse again and placed her cellphone next to the stack of post-its on the table to have it nearby. Then she dug into her pie.

“Any good?” Emma asked.

Regina nodded eagerly and smiled.

“Great,” Emma smiled and tried not to get too affected when a bit of whipped cream ended up on Regina’s pinky finger and the brunette hastily licked it away. Good god.

The blonde took a sip of her coffee and tried not to look at Regina while she ate her slice of pie. Who knew that eating pie could be so seductive? Emma swallowed a too big mouthful of coffee and coughed slightly.

Regina looked up and raised an eyebrow.

“I’m fine,” Emma said and cleared her throat slightly. “Excuse me.”

Regina turned her attention back to her pie, and Emma was relieved when she felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. She took the opportunity while Regina ate to check the message. It was Ella, scolding her for “not texting often enough”. Emma reminded herself to call her friend tonight. And potentially tell her about this date.

After a moment, it was Regina’s cellphone that lit up, and the brunette turned her attention away from the pie for a moment to check the message. She tapped for a few seconds and then put the phone down.

“Anything important?” Emma asked.

Regina shook her head and scribbled quickly on a post-it note. Then she gave Emma the note, and Emma could read: ‘just Henry.’

“Oh,” Emma said. “Everything alright with the kid?”

Regina nodded and smiled in affirmative.

Emma took another sip of her coffee and as she did, her gaze wandered, and she ended up looking at Regina’s phone. The screen was still lit up, and Emma smiled when she saw the background. A photo of Regina and Henry together. Henry couldn’t be very old in the picture.

“Aww,” Emma cooed and nodded towards the phone screen. “How old is he there?”

Regina smiled broadly as she tore another post-it note off the stack and then scribbled for a moment. While she wrote, Emma took another sip of her coffee, and just after she had swallowed the mouthful of coffee, she was presented with a new note: ‘he’s two years old in the picture.’

“Can I see it?” Emma asked. “More properly, I mean?”

Regina nodded eagerly and grabbed her phone. She tapped and then gave the phone to Emma.

The blonde smiled when she saw the picture. Henry was an adorable toddler. All chubby cheeks and eyes gleaming with mischief. In the picture, Regina was holding him, and it was impossible for Emma not to look at her as well. She looked absolutely beautiful. Her dark hair was significantly longer, and she was younger, Emma guessed that she was either twenty six or twenty seven. But it was her eyes that struck Emma the most. They were wide. Unconcerned. The Regina in the picture were clearly happier, unmarred. Everything about the Regina in the picture radiated a lightness Emma hadn’t felt in the version of Regina she was with right now.

“You guys look very sweet together,” Emma smiled as she pushed the phone back towards Regina.

Regina smiled and nodded as she slipped the phone back in her purse.

Emma took another sip of her coffee. She was just about to say something to Regina when her phone chimed again. This time it was someone calling her, and Emma quickly turned the screen up to see who it was. It was Billy. Emma raised an eyebrow. Why was he calling her? He said he couldn’t be by her car until in a few hours. Oh well. Maybe he had found the opportunity to come earlier. Emma hoped so. Maybe he had even fixed her car. Emma hoped that too. But she didn’t hope that it was a tiny, insignificant thing there had been wrong with her car. One that Billy was now calling to tease her about.

The phone still chimed. Emma sighed and then said: “I’m sorry, I have to answer this call. It’s my mechanic.”

Regina nodded and smiled and took a sip of her coffee.

Reluctantly, Emma picked the phone up and swiped to take the call: “hey, Billy. What’s up? Have you already fixed the Bug? That’s pretty impress-“

“What the HELL has happened to that car?!” Billy more or less screeched in the other end.

Emma cringed and removed the phone from her ear slightly. “What the hell are you talking about?” she demanded. Maybe NOW there was white smoke welling up from the engine.

“Well, for starters, all four tires has been slashed,” Billy said tightly in the other end. “And then there’s this...”

“What?” Emma asked, heart hammering in her chest now.

“Well, this.... No. I don’t even want to describe it,” Billy said in the other end. “I’ll send you a picture of it instead. Hold on.”

“Okay,” Emma said, now feeling more than just a little sick. What could possibly be worse than four slashed tires?

She soon found out. It didn’t take long before Billy had sent her the promised picture, and Emma felt even sicker when she opened it. Someone had keyed her car. No, not just keyed. Someone had actually taken their sweet time and scratched a message into the yellow paint. The message was definitely cliché, but all the little hairs in the back of Emma’s neck were still standing up and her heart were thumping in her chest when she read the message her stalker had scratched into the yellow paint.

‘WATCH YOUR BACK’.

 

 

 

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