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To Hear Her Voice In The Silence

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Emma stared at the text. ‘There never was an accident’. What did that even mean?!

She quickly texted Regina, asking: ‘what do you mean??’

After a moment or so, her phone chimed, and Emma checked the message: ‘honestly, I’m not even sure where to begin. I know you want answers, and the only way I can give you answers is by telling you everything, because you’re right. You are too involved now. But I don’t think this is something I can explain to you over text. I’ve tried to put it behind me for a while now, and I fear that sharing this with you will reopen old wounds, but at the same time, I feel like things have reached a point where I can’t pretend anymore, and not just because of the stalker. I like you very much, Emma. But things are so complicated.’

Unsure of how to respond to that, Emma simply texted: ‘Regina, you can tell me anything.’

The response came very fast. ‘And I will. Very soon. I just have to find the right words first. In the meantime, will you do something for me?’

Emma immediately replied with the only acceptable answer: ‘yeah, anything.’ She just hoped that Regina wouldn’t ask her to not reach out to her again.

But that wasn’t what Regina asked her to do. Instead the text read: ‘switch to another room.’

Emma frowned deeply as she texted back: ‘why?’

The response came as quickly as the others had: ‘I really don’t want to frighten you, but it is possible that there is a camera in your room. Change your room, and please change your number as well.’

Emma swallowed thickly and looked around in the room. Could there really be a camera? God, it was like something straight out of a cliché thriller movie! But Emma trusted Regina completely. The blonde quickly texted: ‘alright. I’ll change room, and I’ll change my number.’

The next text from Regina simply said: ‘good.’

It felt as though something was squeezing Emma’s heart as she texted: ‘are you sure you’re not in any danger?’

The response came promptly: ‘yes, I’m absolutely sure. And neither are you as long we don’t see each other. You mustn’t show up at my house anymore.’

Emma’s heart sank. This wasn’t fair. This definitely wasn’t fair. Why did there have to be someone out there so determined to keep her and Regina from not seeing each other? And what was that cryptic message from Regina about? ‘there never was an accident.’ What did that even mean? Why would Regina lie about her accident? It didn’t make sense to Emma. At least not right now. She was completely exhausted. She was still pretty affected from having been drinking last night and exhausted from her epiphany as well. And ever so slightly frustrated. It seemed as though the more things she found out, the more questions she had. She wasn’t finding matching pieces for a puzzle. She was finding random pieces that didn’t seem to fit anywhere, and it was frustrating the hell out of her!

Then her phone chimed again. Emma immediately grabbed the phone again and checked the message: ‘goodnight, Emma.’

Emma wasn’t completely sure why that made her emotional, but nevertheless it did, and the blonde’s fingers trembled a bit as she texted back: ‘goodnight, Regina.’

Emma waited ten minutes, clinging to the hope that Regina would text her again, but her phone remained silent. Emma disappointedly switched on the alarm and then put the phone down on the nightstand. She cringed a bit as she unfolded herself from her crossed legged position and rose from the bed. She had completely forgotten to eat dinner tonight, and she hoped that Ruby still would be downstairs so she could get a bite to eat.

Ruby was indeed downstairs. So was Dorothy. The two women were doing something that could only de described as “messing around” when Emma came downstairs, and both of them looked a little embarrassed. Emma asked if she could have a quick sandwich or something like that, and then she asked if it would be alright if she changed room. Naturally, Ruby was confused as to why, and Emma told her the truth and said that there was a chance that there had been a camera installed in her room. Ruby was obviously disturbed at that and offered to call Graham right now, but Emma declined the offer and said that she would be calling the sheriff tomorrow and have him come take a look at things.

Emma didn’t just get a quick sandwich. Instead she got a large potion of roast and potatoes, a very small glass of wine and the “order” to sit down and talk.

And so Emma did. She talked to Ruby and Dorothy about everything that wasn’t related to the stalker situation, and it was actually very refreshing to talk and think about something else for a change.

Emma enjoyed it. She enjoyed hanging out with Ruby and Dorothy, and she couldn’t quite believe that she had actually been thinking about running away from Steveston. There was no way she would ever be able to do that. This little tugged away corner of Canada had become her home. More than Toronto ever had been. Emma marveled at that, because she had been living in Toronto since she was little, and she had lived in Steveston for well... Not that long. It was amazing how fast this little town had started to feel like home to her.

Emma scarfed down the rest of her food, drank her wine and then thanked Ruby profusely. Ruby dismissed her gratitude and handed Emma a key to a new room.

Emma went upstairs and tried to act completely natural and relaxed as she gathered her things, but really this gave her the creeps. The idea that there potentially could be a camera here was eerie. The idea that the stalker had been watching her sleep and undress... Emma shook her head slightly. She didn’t want to think about it. She just wanted to get out of the room as quickly as possible, but without drawing attention to herself. It was possible that the stalker wasn’t watching her RIGHT now, and instead of snooping around and searching for the potential camera in the room, Emma found it best to just get out of there. If the stalker DID watch her right now and figured out that she was looking for the camera, there was a good chance he would be enraged and intensify his terror. Emma wasn’t interested in pushing her luck.

The blonde quietly but quickly packed up her things and then considered it for a second. Maybe she could trick the stalker. At least for a little while. Maybe she should hope that he was watching her right now and seeing her pack up her things. Maybe she could fool him into believing that she was actually leaving town for good. She was pretty sure that it wouldn’t take the stalker long to work out that she still was in town, but maybe this could be a temporary break from his terror.

Or maybe not. Maybe Emma was just silly for thinking that she could actually outsmart the stalker like that. She continued to pack her things, and then she slung her bag over her shoulder and left the room.

She used the key Ruby had given her and unlocked the door to the room across the hall. It was almost identical to the room she had just left. Except that it didn’t have a square view. Instead Emma could see the forest when she lifted the blinds. Emma wasn’t sure whether she should feel good about that, or paranoid. In some ways this was nice. She wouldn’t have to jump up every time she heard a car, because there wasn’t any cars here, but at the same time, Emma had no problem with imagining how she lifted the blinds, peeked out of the window and then saw the stalker watch her from he forest. In some ways that would be even more terrifying than seeing his car driving past her window or seeing him stand outside underneath a streetlight. Emma squared her shoulders and closed the curtains. Then she turned her back on the window and proceeded to unpack her things. That didn’t take too long. Especially because she didn’t bother to actually stuff her clothes into the dresser right now. That would have to wait until tomorrow. Right now, Emma simply was too tired.

She hauled her long t-shirt and sweatpants out of her bag, grabbed her hairbrush and toothbrush and then went into the bathroom to get ready for bed.

Emma hurried as she changed into her sleepwear and then brushed her teeth and twisted her hair into a loose braid. She needed to lie down. It felt as though her head was about to explode or something.

Once done and ready for bed, Emma left the bathroom and went back inside the bedroom.

Emma more or less fell into bed. Her mind was spinning, and she had a feeling that she wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight either. She kept thinking about one thing.

‘There never was an accident.’

Emma’s stomach twisted slightly. What did that even mean? Well, obviously she could work out that Regina hadn’t been involved in some freak accident that had robbed her of her voice, but what then?

What had happened if there hadn’t been an accident?

Emma’s stomach twisted again. The opposite of an accident was a deliberate act. Her heart began thumping too intensely in her chest once more. Whatever it was that had happened was clearly very, very difficult for Regina to open up about. And it had involved her spending a lot of time in the hospital. With tubes and machines and being heavily sedated. At least that was what Henry had said when he had been worried about his mother. It had been something traumatizing. Emma rubbed a hand over her forehead. She was getting a headache all over again. Wondering about this made her feel ever so slightly ill.

‘There never was an accident.’

‘She’s sleeping really heavily.’

Emma was beginning to feel a bit insane. She would definitely not get any sleep tonight, and suddenly the urge to just leap from her bed, storm outside and then jump into her car and drive straight back to Regina’s house was overwhelming. She wanted to stay there and make sure that Regina and Henry were okay. Emma really hoped that Regina had been truthful when she had texted that she wasn’t in any danger. The idea of Regina being in danger somehow frightened Emma even more than the idea of herself being in danger did. Emma could yell and scream for help. Regina couldn’t.

Emma started to sweat underneath the thick covers, and she promptly kicked them away. She felt so uncomfortable. Like she could barf at any given moment.

‘There never was an accident’.

God, what had happened?! And if there hadn’t actually been accident, why had Regina claimed that in the first place? Normally, Emma immediately backed out when someone was lying to her, but this was different. She instinctively knew that Regina must have had a good reason to lie. Emma shifted on the mattress again. This was hellish. She heard the wind rustling in the trees outside, and Emma felt that urge to stand from the bed and walk over to the window to check. Suppose he was standing out there right now? Suppose he was always really close by, but always hiding in plain sight. Emma grabbed the covers and curled into a ball.

The next morning wasn’t much better.

Emma felt as though she was going through some kind of déjà vu. When was the last time she hadn’t been sleep deprived? Out of habit, she checked her phone, but there wasn’t a message from Regina waiting for her. Of course there wasn’t. Emma should have known that.

 

She felt like she was in some sort of trance as she showered, got dressed and then went downstairs to have breakfast. She’d been having these weird, distorted dreams all night. Most of them involved the hoodie clad stalker showing up everywhere. He never did anything to her, he just lured Emma closer by showing her a phone, taunting ‘she wants to talk to you’. In the dream, Emma had willingly come closer to him, and then once she was close enough, the stalker had tossed the phone over to her. Emma had looked at the phone only to find the cryptic ‘there never was an accident’-message. When
Emma had looked up, the stalker had laughed at her, had taunted: ‘what do you think happened, Emma? Hmm? Do you think something really bad has happened? Something you’re forcing her to relive just because you can’t stay away from her!’
Enraged, Emma had lunged at him, had tried to grab him, but suddenly he had been gone. Only to appear behind her instead. And once again he had taunted: ‘watch your back, Emma! If you come near her again, I’ll have to teach you another lesson. And next time it won’t just be your tires...’
Emma had once again woken up bathed in sweat and with a heart that hammered in her chest. She had felt sick all over again, and a trip to the bathroom to wash her face had been necessary.
She had drifted in and out of sleep for the rest of the night. Constantly believing that she heard something in her room. Three times, paranoia had forced her to check under the bed, and four times it had urged her to lift the blinds and look out of the window. She had seen nothing but the forest, but at the time, Emma had been so riled up that she kept envisioning that he was standing behind the trees, just waiting for her to go back to sleep so he could strike.

Emma didn’t have much of an appetite this morning either. This fucking situation was sucking everything out of her. She could barely muster smiling back at Ruby when the waitress passed her table.

The blonde lightly drummed her fingers against the table. Her jaw clenched a bit when she realized that this was the same table, she had shared coffee with Regina at. God, it felt both like yesterday and like several months since. So much had happened since then. Emma tiredly rubbed a hand over her face. The urge to call in sick was overwhelming, but she had already decided not to do that. It wouldn’t help anything. She would just end up staying in her room and overthink if she called in sick.

 

So Emma went to work. This time she borrowed Elsa’s car. She arrived at Dragon Publishing in fine time, and she saw no suspicious people on the parking lot. Only Malena’s “army” of security.

 

Emma parked the car as elegantly as she could, and then walked across the parking lot. She reminded herself not to stare in suspicion at any of the security people. She knew that these people were more than professional.

Emma walked inside the building and took the elevator up to her own office. Her new office. She had finally been moved out of the cluttered little room she had been occupying so far. This office was bigger, more professional. Emma loved it. It made her feel even more as an official member of “the Dragon family”. That was what Malena jokingly called her employees. Emma and August, who were the newest members of the family were called “hatchlings”. Had it been anyone but Malena who had said it, Emma probably would have found it offensive, but it was impossible to find it offensive when it was Malena. Calling Emma and August “hatchlings” were just a part of her eccentric behavior. Emma doubted that Malena even considered that it could be taken as an offense.

Emma found her laptop in her bag, placed it on the table and then hooked it up with the charger. Today was gonna be a bit of a slow day as well. Meaning that she only had one manuscript she needed to concentrate on. Three hundredth pages long. She definitely wouldn’t be able to finish it today, but that was okay. She could continue at home like she often did. That suited her perfect. That way she would have something to do when she came home. Hopefully, it would be enough to keep her occupied. And keep her from thinking too much.

This manuscript was considerably “lighter” from what Dragon Publishing normally brought into consideration. It was a love story. With a supernatural element, obviously. Malena would never accept anything that didn’t had a hint of something supernatural, but nevertheless, it was a lighter story. And it didn’t make Emma feel one bit better. She had little interest in reading about love right now. Not when things were so...

Emma shook her head. Maybe she didn’t want to read a love story right now, but nevertheless, that was exactly what she had to do. She would just have to put on her big girl pants and suck it up. Get invested in the story and stop comparing it to her own life. The blonde sighed a little as she forced herself to look at the screen and concentrate on the words in front of her.

But she hadn’t been working for very long before there was a knock on her door. Emma tried not to feel paranoid as she said: “come in.”

The door opened and Malena stepped inside.

“Good morning,” Emma said and smiled a little. She hadn’t seen her boss until now.

“Good morning. I finished reading your manuscript,” Malena said in her usual no-nonsense way.

“Oh. Okay?” Emma said nervously.

“When do you think you’ll be done with it?” Malena asked plainly.

“I’m in the middle of wrapping things up,” Emma said truthfully and tried to gauge Malena’s reaction.

Malena’s heels clicked against the floor as she walked over to the window. She tilted her head as she scanned the parking lot, clearly trying to give the impression that she was keeping an eye on her
security staff.

Emma watched her in silence and waited. Malena was prone to act all nonchalant when she had something important to say. Another of her quirks. Emma forced herself to be patient and wait until her boss decided to actually say something.

Emma turned her attention back to the laptop, tried to continue the proofreading process despite the fact that Malena was still there.

“It’s brilliant.”

Emma’s head snapped up and her neck gave a slight crick sound as she turned her head to look at Malena.

“You have a gift,” Malena said plainly and without looking away from the security staff walking around on the parking lot.

“You really think so?” Emma asked, completely awestruck.

“Oh, I know so,” Malena said. “The plot in each fairytale is masterfully constructed and the dialogue is flowing. I’m infuriated that you haven’t had anything published yet.”

Emma just gawped. She was far too awestruck to actually say anything.

“Finish it,” Malena said and shifted slightly. “But take your time. For the love of god, don’t rush it. I believe rushing the ending would take away some of it’s magic.”

“Okay,” Emma said.

“I know that you’re still writing on the ending, but it’s the same person that’s responsible for all of it, isn’t it?” Malena said nonchalantly.

“Yeah. It is,” Emma confirmed.

Malena finally turned around and looked at her. “Very creative.” Then she walked back towards the door, but before leaving the office, she paused with one hand on the doorknob and said: “A diamond in
the rough. Exactly like I said. Keep up the good work, miss Swan.”

With that she left the office without another word.

Emma was left surprised and happier than she had been for a while. This was very, very good news. A tiny ray of sunshine. Something good she could cling on to. Not everything was completely shitty, she reminded herself. Good things could still happen. At least when it came to her writing. If only good things could happen in other situations as well. Once again, Emma thought about Regina. Was the brunette still in bed with those throat pains Henry had mentioned? Emma felt that pinching concern deep in her belly. How was she supposed to not drive by Regina´s place when she was done working?

Wasn’t she allowed to text the brunette either? Regina hadn’t texted her this morning like she had done before all of this happened, and that was probably an indicator. A way of telling Emma that she shouldn’t be texting her.

Emma sighed. She missed Regina terribly. She missed meeting up for coffee, and she missed watching Regina scribbling notes. She missed seeing Regina smile.

Emma leaned back in her chair. Thinking about Regina obviously made her think about “the elephant in the room” as well. The thing Regina was hiding. No, hiding wasn’t the right word to use. That word indicated that Regina was a liar, and Emma definitely did not see Regina as a liar. Emma gnawed at a fingernail, once again fought the urge to pick up her phone and text Regina. Just to hear if she was okay. Just to make sure.

She didn’t though. Instead she reached inside her bag and found her headphones. She connected them to her phone and then slipped them inside her ears. Normally, Cigarettes After Sex was her “go to” background music, but today she ended up choosing classical music instead.

And in hindsight, maybe that was a pretty bad idea, because it didn’t take long before Emma ended up thinking back to the concert she had been attending with Regina. That had been a very special experience. The way Regina had become emotional over the music had made Emma emotional as well, and she could remember how she had considered to reach out and take Regina’s hand. Maybe she should have done that. Instead of kissing her. Emma had many times thought about that look Regina had had in her eyes after Emma had kissed her. Something had been off about it. Emma had thought that it had been because it had come to a surprise to Regina, but when Emma laid awake at night, she couldn’t help but think that it was something else that had made Regina react like she did. And it confused Emma, because Regina had returned the kiss. Emma was a hundredth percent certain of that. So what was it?

Emma couldn’t figure it out. Like so many things about Regina, that was a mystery. A mystery, Emma hoped would be uncovered soon. Regina had said so. She had said that she would explain everything soon. And Emma hoped that she meant it and hadn’t changed her mind. Emma needed to know what was going on. With the stalker, with Regina, with everything.

The blonde blinked. She wasn’t working. She was just sitting and staring at her laptop like some fool. Back to work Swan! Emma quickly snapped out of it.

 

Saying that the weather was terrible when Emma drove back home would be an understatement. It was pouring down, and it was literally storming like a bitch. Emma couldn’t wait to return to her warm, dry room. She had rushed across the parking lot to get to Elsa’s car, and she had ended up getting completely soaked. After having spent only two seconds outside. Her hair was dripping, and her boots were full of water. VERY uncomfortable. Emma was gonna take a nice, long, hot bath when she got home. And she couldn’t wait. A nice, long soak was exactly what she deserved today. And then maybe a piece of that gooey chocolate cake she had seen on display earlier.

The windshield wipers on Elsa’s car wasn’t working very good. Emma was struggling to see the road, and she slowed down some. She didn’t wanna risk hitting someone. Not even her stalker. Thinking about the possibility that he could be lurking out here in the darkness made Emma shiver a bit. She reminded herself that she was safe in the car. Nothing could get to her when she was in the car. But suppose he would actually show up? Suppose he was suddenly standing in the middle of the road? Maybe Emma would accidentally stepping on the speeder and not the brakes... She shook her head. No. Of course she wouldn’t. What was she even thinking? Yes, the stalker was making her life very, very difficult, but murder was hardly the answer. Of course it wasn’t.

To distract herself, Emma switched on the radio. She ended up catching the latest forecast. They were warning about going outside tomorrow. The storm would get worse. The wind would be extreme. The “experts” were warning about rooftiles flying through the air, and trees falling onto the road. If that really was the case, Emma wouldn’t be able to go to work tomorrow. Oh well. That only meant that she would have plenty of time to write instead. Maybe she would even finish the fairytales tomorrow. Emma had an inkling she would. At least if everything went according to plan. But she wasn’t gonna force herself to keep writing when she felt uninspired. She would follow Malena’s advice and take extra good care of the ending.

Emma yelped when a wolf suddenly ran across the road. Damn. She could’ve hit it. A wolf. Recovering from the shock, the blonde chuckled. Almost hitting a wolf in a storm. Wow. She would have to find a way to incorporate that into her story. Tonight’s weather was the perfect setting for a scary scene. She was definitely gonna take advantage of that.

Emma felt relieved when she saw the familiar “Steveston”-sign. Now she was almost home. That was good. The weather was definitely getting worse. She couldn’t wait to have dinner and then have that soak in the tub. It was possible that she was looking more forward to that than she was looking forward to dinner. Shocking, really.

 

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

 

The weather had gotten worse when Emma came home, and instead of returning Elsa’s car to her, the blonde took mercy upon herself and parked the borrowed vehicle right in front of Eugenia’s Inn. Elsa could pick up the car tomorrow. Or the next day. Emma doubted her friend was gonna need the car tomorrow. Surely no one was gonna buy ice cream when there was a storm, right?

Emma rushed inside the diner. Her timing couldn’t have been better. Just as she had slammed the door behind her, she saw a lightening zigzag across the sky, and soon she heard a clap of thunder.

“Damn,” she muttered. The weather was getting really intense. Emma was very glad she was home.

Ruby and Eugenia were nowhere to be seen, so Emma did what she had grown accustomed to do lately (and what she had gotten Eugenia’s blessing to do). She went behind the counter, opened the door to the kitchen and slipped inside. In the kitchen she found a tin-foiled wrapped plate and a little post-it note on top of it saying, “for Emma” followed by lots of smileys. Emma tried to block out any sort of flashbacks a she removed the post-it and the tin foil and then popped the plate inside the microwave. It didn’t take long before the smell of grilled cheese sandwich filled the kitchen. After a moment or so, Emma removed the plate from the microwave and sniffed appreciatingly. Yep, the sandwich was definitely warm. And it smelled amazing. God bless Eugenia and her disbelief when Emma said that she could just buy some food on her way back from work. Eugenia had refused to listen to “that kind of nonsense”, and “making a grilled cheese sandwich is not a problem.” She had then insisted that Emma was too thin. That had made Emma smile a little, and she had felt every bit like Eugenia was her grandmother. She was certainly acting that way, and Emma didn’t mind it one bit. She’d never had a grandmother before.

Emma elegantly balanced the plate in one hand as she went up the stairs. She fumbled with her key for a moment and then unlocked the door to her room. Her new room. She had completely forgotten to call Graham and tell him that it was possible that there was a camera in the room she had previously stayed in. Shit. She would have to call him tomorrow. She hoped he could make it over here despite the storm. Finding out whether there was a camera in her other room was pretty important.

For right now, Emma settled for stepping inside her room, locking the door behind her and then digging into her grilled cheese sandwich while she tried to wrestle her jacket off at the same time. Bit of a struggle, but her jacket was soaked. Emma wasn’t aiming for leaving a mess. She made sure to stay right by the door so she wouldn’t drip all over the carpet. Eugenia probably wouldn’t appreciate that very much.

She ate her grilled cheese sandwich in top speed, and as soon as she had swallowed the last mouthful, Emma quickly wrestled off her boots. She left them in the corner near the door. They were soaked. And so was she. She tried to be as careful as possible as she went into the bathroom and took off her wet clothes. She left the lot on the radiator so it could dry off, and then she went back into the bedroom and grabbed the book she had been trying to read for the past fourteen days. There hadn’t been a lot of time to read, but maybe she could find the time now. She was counting on spending a long time soaking in the bathtub.

She went back inside the bathroom and switched the water on, and while the tub slowly filled, the blonde prepared everything. Not one, but two fluffy white towels. One to wrap around her hair, and one to wrap around her body. An equally fluffy bathrobe to slip into once she had dried off. Tonight, Emma was gonna pamper herself. Thoroughly. She had deserved that.

Soon the tub was filled, and Emma immediately lowered herself into the water. Oh, this was heaven. It had to be. The blonde tipped her head back and closed her eyes. She had actually been planning on reading her book while she soaked in the tub, but now that she was in the hot water, she couldn’t find the energy or urge to read. She was far too comfortable with her head tipped back and her eyes closed.

“Mmm,” Emma mumbled in the silence. “This is amazing!” it felt like it had been forever since she had last taken a soak in the tub. She grabbed the loofah and lazily scrubbed her arm. Then she chuckled. It was half-assed. It was most definitely half-assed. Maybe scrubbing down could wait a little. Maybe it was perfectly acceptable to stay put and not move an inch until the water turned cold.

That sounded like the perfect plan, really. A nice, long soak in the tub. Emma hoped that there would still be some chocolate left when she eventually went downstairs.

The wind howled once more, and Emma heard a branch knock against the window. But for once, it didn’t scare her. Right now, she found it very hard to believe that there were things like stalkers and secrets and whatever. Right now, Emma felt completely relaxed. She should have brought her phone in here so she could listen to some music while she relaxed. That wouldn’t be half-bad. And the music would help her stay awake. Accidentally drowning in the bathtub wasn’t on Emma’s schedule today.

The blonde chuckled a little and stretched as much as she could in the bathtub. It was actually a bit too small. She had to sort of curl up in order to fit in the bathtub. She chuckled again. Everything about this inn was a bit fairytale like, so maybe the bathtubs had been intended for the seven dwarves and not Snow White. Not that she was Snow White or anything. God, no.

Emma sighed pleasantly once more. This was really, really nice. A haven of peace and quiet. A temporary break from everything that had been going on. Emma felt as though she had earned this break.

More than earned it. Seriously, she had been-

Knock, knock, knock!

The blonde’s head snapped up, and her imagination immediately went into overdrive. It was the stalker. He had somehow found out that she had switched room. And now he was knocking on the door to scare her before he forced the door open and came in here to grab her...

Knock, knock, knock! “Ems? You in here?”

Emma breathed a sigh of relief and scolded herself for immediately overreacting. It wasn’t the stalker. It was just Ruby. Everything was fine.

“Ems? You home?”

“Be right there!” Emma called back and muttered complainingly under her breath. She had hoped for a longer soak. Oh well. Maybe she could climb back into the tub when she had talked to Ruby.

The blonde quickly stood from the tub and grabbed the fluffy white bathrobe. She easily slipped it on and tied it around her body. She was dripping, but she couldn’t do anything about that right now. Nor could she do anything about the wet footsteps she left all over the carpet as she marched out to open the door. She quickly unlocked it and then opened it.

Ruby was indeed standing outside the door. “Oh,” she said and cringed a bit. “I’m interrupting you.”

“Totally,” Emma teased. “But I’ll live. What’s up?”

“I’ve got this for you,” Ruby said and handed Emma a cream colored envelope. “Just delivered at the front desk.”

“Oh. Thanks. Two ticks,” Emma said as she wiped her wet hands on the bathrobe. Then she accepted the envelope being held out towards her.

“Sorry I interrupted your bath,” the waitress said sheepishly.

Emma rolled her eyes and then “warned” Ruby that she would come downstairs for a piece of chocolate cake later. Ruby cackled and said that she would save Emma a large piece. Then the waitress turned around and disappeared down the hallway.

Emma closed and locked the door again. She briefly considered whether this envelope could contain yet another threatening message from the stalker. Maybe opening the envelope was a bad idea. But then she spotted something in the middle of the envelope. ‘To Emma’. Plain and simple. And Emma would recognize that handwriting anywhere.

Regina.

Emma’s heart thumped a bit faster in her chest. Was this it? Was she holding the answer to everything in her hand? Would be mystery finally be unveiled? She forgot all thoughts about going back to her bath. This was far more important. Emma climbed onto the bed, completely ignoring the fact that she was soaking wet, and then she ripped the envelope open. A letter fell out. A very long letter. The blonde immediately unfolded it and tried to ignore the way her heart was thumping too fast in her chest as she began reading:

 

‘Emma,

This is not easy for me. I believe this is the third time I’m trying to write this letter to you. I failed both times. The first time I barely manage to write a line before I had to stop. The second time I made it past the difficult part before nausea forced me to the bathroom.
But you want answers, and what’s more, you deserve answers. God, you deserve answers! Apart from my sister, you’re the first person to know the truth. You’re the first person I’ve wanted to share the truth with.

You’ve asked me if this has anything to do with Henry’s father. It hasn’t. I met Henry’s father in a bar when I was twenty four. I had been drinking, and so had he. Perhaps that was why we hit it off so well. Either way, we ended up going back to his room and, well... I suppose I don’t have to explain what happens when two people who have been drinking decides to move things to a more private setting. It was over in a flash. Just a one time thing. The only thing I know about Henry’s father is that his name is Daniel and that he was a riding instructor at the time. He was gone when I woke up next morning, he left me with the bill for the room. Charming fellow. Anyway, six weeks later I found out that I was pregnant. Not very surprising considering the fact that we were too drunk to think about protection. It was a bit of a shock at first. I hadn’t exactly planned to become a mother right then and there, but I was never in any doubt when I found out I was pregnant. Perhaps it didn’t fit into my plans, but is there ever a “right” time when it comes to having children?’...

 

Emma shook her head a little. No, there probably wasn’t. Then she kept reading:

‘....Henry is undoubtedly the best thing that has ever happened to me. And there was a point where he was just about the only thing that kept me going.
There never was an accident, Emma. I didn’t loose my voice because of an accident. It was taken from me. I’m about to reach the part where I had to stop the second time. I really hope that I’ll manage to write it this time, because having to start over would simply be too difficult.

I want to tell you a story. A story that begins two years ago when I was living a rather pleasant life if I do say so myself. I had a good and stable job, and I had an adorable eight year old who’s biggest question was why the sky sometimes changed from grey to blue. Life was good. I was contend. But maybe not as happy as I claimed to be. There was something missing. I wanted to get back in the “dating” game. Between having Henry and maintaining my career, there hadn’t been a lot of time for that, and I was starting to feel like I was ready. I was thirty three and admittedly a little frustrated. I felt like I had missed some opportunities. I didn’t want to be alone for the rest of my days. One night I moaned to Zelena about it, and I think you know enough about my sister to know that she’s a “less talk more action” kind of woman...’

 

Emma chuckled slightly. Yes, that was exactly how she had experienced Zelena. The blonde gnawed on a fingernail as she resumed reading:

‘.....So the week after our talk, she informed me that she would be taking Henry in the weekend. And then she more or less ordered me to “go out there and have fun”. So I did. Henry and I lived in Montreal at the time, and I knew the town like the back of my hand, so I ended up driving all the way to Québec and checking into a hotel for the weekend. I had been a long time since I had done something like that, so I felt quite excited.
After having walked around in the city and been on “sightseeing”, I decided to do what Zelena had ordered me to do. Go out and have fun. I ended up in some bar. I don’t remember the name anymore, but I do remember that I wasn’t having a lot of fun. I just sat there with my drink. I was easily discouraged, and it didn’t take me long to decide that this had been a bad idea. I decided to empty my drink and then head back to the hotel. I was quick to convince myself that I was acting silly. I wasn’t twenty years old anymore.

That was when he showed up. We literally ran into each other at the door, I told him that I was just about to leave, and he told me what a shame he thought that was, he would have loved to buy me a drink. It was definitely a cliché opening line, but there was something about the way he said it. He was confident. Cocky. And I liked that. So I agreed to let him buy me a drink.
We went back to my table, and he bought me that drink. And one for himself. I think I mocked him because he ordered rum. We toasted, we talked, we introduced ourselves to one another. We hit it off. He was interesting. He told me that he was a police officer, and I remember that I laughed because I thought it was a pickup line he used on every woman he met. He answered, “only on the women I find interesting’, It was so cliché, but I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had used cheesy pick-up lines on me. And he was an attractive man. Rugged, but not in a bad way.
Anyway, to make a long story just a bit shorter, we ended up exchanging phone numbers by the end of the night, and I remember that I thought that was a wonderfully old-fashioned thing to do, especially since I had mentioned to him that I was staying on a hotel not too far from the bar.

We ended up seeing each other the next day. We went for a walk in the city, and he asked me how long I was staying in town. I told him that I was only gonna be there for the weekend, I had to get home to my son. I had expected that that would make him run for the hills, but it didn’t. Instead he seemed genuinely interested and wanted to know more about Henry and my job at Montreal University. He seemed impressed when I told him that I was a professor.
Once again, I’ll try to make a long story shorter. We spend most of the weekend together and did what people do when there’s a fair amount of chemistry between them. By the end of the weekend I was smitten. It was ridiculous because I had only just met him, but I couldn’t help it. Everything about him was attractive to me.
But eventually, things had to come to an end. I went back to Montreal. He had my phone number, but that didn’t mean a lot to me. I didn’t expect him to call me ever again.

So naturally, I was quite surprised when he did. He called me that Monday after Henry had gone to bed. We ended up talking for two hours.

For two weeks, that was how we maintained a “relationship”. Over the phone. Then he asked me if he could come and visit me. He had booked a room at a nearby hotel. Henry was having a sleepover with a friend that weekend, so I said yes.

Once again, the chemistry between us was just right. We spent most of the weekend in his hotel bed. He was exactly as charming and wonderful as I remembered and seeing him that weekend only made me more smitten with him.

Fast forward a couple of months... We continued to see each other during the weekends, and when that was impossible, we talked over the phone, most of the time for hours. I introduced him to Henry. I had been very nervous about that, because I had never introduced a partner to Henry before. To me, that was the ultimate test. Everything depended on that meeting.
It went better than I could ever have imagined. Henry was instantly taken with his boyish way, and he seemed quite taken with Henry as well. They hit it off, and I was relieved. Next I introduced him to Zelena, and Zelena liked him too, but there was something about her reaction I didn’t quite understand. She wasn’t as excited for me as I had hoped, and obviously, I felt very disappointed and I didn’t hesitate to tell her that...’

 

Emma wetted her lips and took a short break to rub her eyes. Then she continued reading:

 

‘...But I refused to let that discourage me. I was smitten with this man. I really felt as though I had found a partner. THE partner. The one I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with.
He moved in with us. Unofficially, at first. But after a while it seemed ridiculous that he had to go back and forward all the time. The house Henry and I were living in were big enough for one more, and he had gotten an offer about being transferred to Montreal Police Department. I really felt as though everything was coming together, and I was delighted when he said yes to the job and moved in with Henry and me. Officially. Henry adored him, and I really felt as though we were becoming a family. I couldn’t have been happier.

But that was when things started to change. It happened so gradually, I barely noticed it at first. Sometimes he could be moody when he came home from work, but I chalked that up to him being tired and stressed. Moving to a new city couldn’t be easy. And plus, he had gone from living on his own to suddenly living with a mother and her child. That had to be quite the change. I think I would be as tired if I were him.
But then I started to see another side of him. He could sometimes snap. Not at Henry, though. Always at me. But he always apologized and said that he was just tired, and that he would feel better in the morning. And he always did, so I didn’t think that much of it.
We hadn’t lived together for very long before he surprised me with a romantic night out. Delicious food, good wine. And by the end of the night I got the surprise of a lifetime when he suddenly kneeled and asked me to marry him...’

 

A surprised little gasp escaped Emma. Had Regina been married? Her head was spinning as she turned the page and kept reading:

‘....I cried as I gave him my yes. I couldn’t believe it. It felt like a dream come true. A fairytale. A whirlwind romance. By some miracle, I had found everything I could possibly ask for.
I’m sure you’ve already figured out where I’m going with this story. This is not a fairytale. Quite the reverse.
At first everything was as rose red as could be. We were happy. I suddenly had a wedding to plan, and at first, he participated in everything and acted like an excited husband to be. But then he started to get busier at work, and therefore more stressed and tired. A couple of months after he had proposed to me, we had an argument. I don’t even remember what about anymore, but we were both yelling a bit. I don’t think I’ve ever been as surprised in my life as I was when he suddenly slapped me. It had literally come out of nowhere. I was so surprised, I was barely shocked. I couldn’t comprehend what had happened.
He immediately got very upset and started crying as he apologized to me again and again. He assured me it was an accident and that he would never ever do it again.
I can’t remember what I said to all that. I was still completely shocked. I think I just went upstairs and locked myself in the bedroom. I very distinctly remember that Henry wasn’t home that night, and that I was relieved about that.
The next morning, he was still there, and he once again assured me that he would never ever do that again. He cried again and said that he didn’t know why he had done it. He loved me and he didn’t want to lose me...’

 

Emma felt sick to her stomach. She wasn’t sure whether she had to throw up or not. She breathed in and out through her nose as she kept reading:

‘.... I was an idiot. I forgave him. I wish I could tell you why, but I can’t. Maybe I naively believed that he meant it. That he would never do it again.
He did. A couple of months after the first incident, he slapped me again. I don’t remember why. Honestly, I don’t think there was much of a reason. Exactly like the first time, he cried and was full of apologies. He would never do it again. This time, I told him to leave. And he did. For a few hours. Then he begged me not to leave him. He said he loved me. He promised he would get help for it. I believed him. I actually gave him the benefit of the doubt. I hoped he would change.

He didn’t. Instead the situation got worse. He expressed how annoying he found it that I worked so much. He thought it was ridiculous. He could provide for us, he said. I dismissed it and told him how important my job was. He got angry and suggested that I cared more about my work than about him. I told him that wasn’t true, but he didn’t believe me. We had another argument that night.
I wish I could give you an explanation as to why I kept staying with him. I suppose I hoped that it would get better. That I could somehow change him. And I managed to convince myself that it wasn’t that bad. He always behaved when Henry was present. He acted like the perfect stepdad. He was happy and joked with Henry. I told myself that I stayed one more day things would be like that every day.

But nothing changed. Instead the situation escalated. During our... intimate moments, he suddenly developed the habit of grabbing my throat. I asked him why he had started doing that, and he acted surprised and asked me if I didn’t like it. I told him that I didn’t, and then I asked him to stop it. But he didn’t. He kept doing it, and I stopped protesting. He wasn’t hurting me, and if it turned him on, I didn’t see the point in starting an argument over it. I sucked it up and endured it. I hoped that would make him happier, but it didn’t. Everything got worse and worse. He started to believe that I was having affairs with the other teachers at Montreal University. There wasn’t an ounce of truth in it, but obviously, he wouldn’t listen to that. I “earned myself” a few solid slaps for having lied to him. And then he told me that I shouldn’t be working. That it wasn’t my place to work. That I should be at home with Henry and take care of him instead. Suppose something happened to him.
It was an obvious threat, and it finally made me wake up. I’d had enough. I couldn’t take anymore.

The next day I sent Henry to Zelena’s for the weekend, and then I waited until he came home from work. Ironically enough, he was in a good mood when he came home, but that changed all too quickly when I asked him to leave. I told him that I’d had enough. That I was done. He went completely ballistic. He screamed at me and threatened me with all kinds of things. Then he hit me again. This time he used his fist, and I ended up hitting my head on the wall. I nearly passed out and he took advantage of that and grabbed my throat. He squeezed. I couldn’t breathe properly, but I somehow manage to hit him in the face. I was wearing the ring he gave me, and it cut his cheek. He let go of me and grabbed his cheek instead. I ran. I don’t know why I ran upstairs instead of outside. I didn’t think clearly. I locked myself in the bedroom where my phone was. I called the police and screamed that he was going to kill me. That was about all I managed to say before he busted the door open and came inside the bedroom. He hit me again. I was on the brink of passing out, and he easily overpowered me. He forced me down on the floor. I’ll spare you the details of what he did to me...’

 

Emma was openly crying now. Sobbing. Her fingers trembled and her vision was blurry. She blinked as she forced herself to keep reading:

 

‘.... I kept screaming at him to leave me alone, and somehow, I managed to find the strength to push him away. But only for a moment. Before I could get the chance to even stand up, he kicked me. Grabbed me by my hair and forced me to stand up. He said he was tired of listening to my “bullshit” all the time, and now he was gonna make sure that I would stay silent forever. He grabbed his belt and wrapped it around my throat. Then he squeezed. I tried to get him to stop, but he was so much stronger than I was. He kept squeezing and squeezing. I was convinced that I was going to die. The bedroom started to blur, and the last thing I heard before passing out was the police kicking down the front door...’

 

“Oh my god...” Emma brought a fist up to her mouth in order to muffle her cries. She felt sick. Her stomach coiled, and something that wasn’t just nausea swirled inside her. It was anger. Red, hot anger. Emma had never been so angry in her life. She was literally shaking as she kept reading:

 

‘.... I woke up in the hospital. I had four broken ribs, two black eyes, and my left cheekbone was broken. I was very confused and didn’t quite understand what was happening. One of the nurses told me what had happened a week earlier. They had kept me in a medically induced coma to lessen the pressure on my brain. I was sore and tired, but I remembered everything that had happened to me. Things were very difficult. After I became conscious, I panicked every time one of the doctors had to examine me. I wouldn’t let them touch me. They had to sedate me.

At some point, when I was aware enough to listen, they told me that they had arrested my fiancée. He hadn’t been very difficult to find. A nurse asked me if I could tell them what he had done to me. A policeman would come and take my statement. I opened my mouth to tell them everything, and I couldn’t talk. Not a word came out of my mouth and I panicked all over again. I had to be sedated again.

I don’t know exactly when, perhaps it was a couple of days later when they told me that the strangulation had damaged my vocal cords severely. But they were convinced that it was temporarily. That my voice would come back.
It didn’t. I couldn’t talk no matter how hard I tried, and it was impossible for me not to think about what he had said right before he started choking me. That he would ensure that I stayed silent forever. I assume he meant that he was going to kill me, but in a twisted way, he got it the way he wanted. He took my voice from me.

I was too ill to testify against him, but it wasn’t necessary. My injuries were more than enough. He was charged with assault, rape and attempted murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
I wish I could tell you that that eased things for me, but it didn’t. I was very depressed and more than once I thought about ending things myself. I couldn’t talk, and I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone touching me. Not even my own son. My recovery was slow, and I had to spent some time at a psychiatric ward. Eventually, I started to feel better. I couldn’t just give up. If I did that, he was gonna win, and I refused to let him win. I clawed my way back to life. Literally. I learned to hold my son again, and eventually, I was transferred to a hospital in Toronto to have an operation. An operation that was supposed to give me back the ability to speak. That operation failed. I’m currently waiting for a second operation. One the doctors are convinced is gonna be a success. I had just been discharged from the hospital and was on my way to Vancouver to live with Zelena when you met me on the train.

Now you know the truth. That there never was an accident, and I know you must be wondering why I told you that in the first place. The reason is simple, really. Henry doesn’t know. He doesn’t know what really happened to me. The first time he was allowed to visit me and asked Zelena what had happened, she panicked and said that me and my fiancée had been involved in a car accident. She told Henry that my fiancée had been drunk driving and that’s why he had been sent to prison.
I didn’t correct it. I can’t tell him the truth. He’s only ten. He’s too young to know this. The truth would devastate him. Maybe it’s wrong of me to lie to him, but right now, it’s the best thing to do.

As for the man who’s stalking you... His name is Liam. And he’s the brother of my ex-fiancé. I only met him for a few times, but it turns out, he’s every bit as bad as his brother. When my ex-fiancé was sentenced, his brother caused quite a scene in the courtroom. He yelled and shouted that I was an evil, lying bitch who was ruining his brother’s life. He said that he would come after me and finish the job. That made the judge give him a restraining order right then and there. He’s not allowed to come nowhere near me or Henry or Zelena. I thought that would be the end of it, but clearly, I was wrong. I think Liam must have seen us together and decided to take out his anger on you because he can’t get to me. I saw sheriff Graham this morning, and he and the rest of his officers are looking for Liam.

Now you know everything. I’m damaged, Emma. I flinch when people touch me. Some mornings I almost can’t find the energy to get out of bed, and some nights I wake up in panic because I can feel his hands around my neck.
I’m not gonna pretend that I’m not feeling anything for you, because I do. But you deserve better than this. You deserve someone that isn’t broken, and with everything that’s going on with Liam, I think it would be better if you stay away from me.

 

Regina.’

 

 

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