Emma woke up early the next morning. Bleary eyed but hopeful she sat up in bed and reached for her phone. To discover absolutely nothing. No missed phone calls, no missed facetime calls. No messages. No nothing. Emma had even more questions now that she had yesterday. Emma checked the time. Seven in the morning. One o’clock in Madrid. Regina wasn’t usually doing anything at one o’clock. Emma quickly dialed Regina’s number and brought the phone up to her ear. It didn’t even take a minute before she was greeted by Regina’s cheerful voice greeting her on the voicemail. Emma pursed her lips as she waited for the beep, then she quietly cleared her throat and said: “hey, it’s me again. Now I’m actually a bit worried. I haven’t heard from you in what, two days? What’s going on, Regina? I know you’d never ghost me. Something is going on, isn’t there? Anyway, please call me as soon as you hear this. Bye.”
She sighed and rubbed her face. Not knowing what was going on with Regina was terrible. What if she was in some sort of way? What if....Emma’s stomach tightened with concern. What if Marian had done something to Regina? What if she had gone beyond that slap in the face Emma had seen her give Regina? That had been bad enough. Emma could feel the anger burn in her stomach.
She dragged her unwilling body out of bed and took a quick shower. Then got dressed in her usual jeans and sweatshirt. She then brushed her hair incredibly slowly, as though she was hoping her phone would start ringing before she was done. But unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Her phone remained silent as ever. She suffocated a groan and felt a muscle in her jaw twitch slightly. She felt utterly tempted to call Regina dozen of times, but she refrained from doing so. Told herself that Regina would call her. Of course she would. She HAD to!
Concluding that there wasn’t anymore she could do in her room, Emma turned her back on her treacherous phone and left her room. Maybe she was stomping a little more than usually as she walked down the hallway.
In the kitchen, she found her parents. They were sitting by the kitchen table, having their morning coffee and smiling at one another. Emma admired them. Thirty years of marriage, and they were still as in love as they had been on their wedding day. The blonde wondered how they were doing it. Was what the recipe for a long and happy marriage? Her parents literally had the picture perfect marriage.
They went out to have dinner in a restaurant once every week. They went for walks in the wood every Sunday whether it was raining or snowing. Sometimes they even brought a picnic basket with them.
“Good morning, sweetie,” her mother greeted in her usual cheerful manner.
Emma was not feeling particularly cheerful. “Good morning.”
“Have you slept well?” her mother continued.
“Yeah,” Emma said and grabbed the pot of coffee. She had a feeling that she would needs lots and lots of coffee.
Her father gave her a second glance. “What’s with the long face?”
“I do not have a long face,” Emma denied and tried not to sound too snippy. It was hardly her parents’ fault that she hadn’t heard anything from Regina. Emma clenched her jaw as she reached out and grabbed the bread, almost knocking over the coffee cup.
David gently put a hand on her arm to stall her aggressive movement. “What’s wrong, Emma?”
“Nothing,” Emma said and silently cursed herself for sounding like a whiny sixteen year old whose crush hadn’t answered her text.
David was an excellent detective. “Is it something with Regina?”
“Yeah,” Emma admitted and focused on the cup of coffee in front of her. “I still haven’t heard anything from her, and I don’t understand why.”
“I’m sorry about that, sweetie,” he said sympathetically, and Emma saw that look in his eyes. That look that made her insist: “she’s not ghosting me. Regina would never do that. She wouldn’t!”
“I’ve never said that,” David soothed.
“There has to be a reason,” Emma firmly continued. “There must be something wrong, and it’s driving me crazy not knowing what it is.”
Her mother reached out and patted her daughter’s hand. “I’m sure Regina will call you very soon, sweetie.”
Emma bit the inside of her cheek. “I’m obsessing, aren’t I?”
“Of course you’re not,” Mary Margaret said firmly. “You care about her, and you’re worried about her. There’s nothing obsessive about that, sweetie.”
Emma smiled a little. That was her mom, alright. Always so reasonable and supporting and understanding.
“I do hope that everything is okay,” Mary Margaret continued with a slight frown. “It can’t be easy, what she’s doing, working double shifts and not having her mother’s support at all,” she huffed slightly, and Emma knew that her mother was appalled at Regina’s family situation. Or by her mother, to be accurate. Emma had told her mom a little about Regina’s non-existent relationship with her mother. Nothing overly detailed, but enough to leave Mary Margaret steaming slightly with anger. She found it unacceptable that Regina’s mother wasn’t supporting her daughter like she was supposed to.
Emma took a sip of her coffee and tried to calm down. She had another photo job later this afternoon, and she couldn’t be distracted. She had to do well and earn money. She bit the inside of her cheek again. Make money for what, exactly? Maybe a trip to Spain wasn’t pressing anymore. Maybe it never would be pressing again. Damnit. Now she was obsessing. Emma busied herself with buttering a slice of toast. There was a natural explanation for this. One that would make sense the moment Regina told her about it. One that would make Emma go “ohh!” and then laugh because she had been obsessing over nothing.
But deep down, Emma was starting to doubt that. Not hearing from Regina for a couple of hours because of the time difference was normal, but two days? Nope. That was definitely not normal.
“Have you thought more about whether you want to rent that apartment?” her mom asked with briskness that sounded just a tad too forced. It was painfully obvious that she was merely trying to make
Emma think of something else.
“Not really.” since the whole “where’s Regina?”-thing, the apartment had been one of the last things on Emma’s mind.
“Don’t you think it’s time you did then?” her mom gently suggested with a light pad to Emma’s hand.
Emma took another sip of her coffee before answering. “I don’t know, I think maybe the apartment is a bit too big for me, mom. I’m just one person. I don’t need that much room.”
“I think it’s better if the apartment went to someone who really needs it,” Emma gently interrupted. “Like, a couple or something like that.”
Her mom clearly took what she was saying in. After a few seconds, she nodded. “Of course. You’re right.”
“But don’t fret,” Emma chuckled. “I’ll find something that’s more suitable for me. I’ll be out of your hair soon enough.”
Her mom scowled. “Sweetie, you know I didn’t mean it like that. You are always welcome to stay here for as long as you like. Your father and I enjoy having you home. We missed you when you were away
for three whole weeks. That was a long time.”
“Yeah, it was,” Emma agreed. Her gut twisted as she thought about how there was a good chance that she wouldn’t be going to Madrid again. If Regina really had decided to dump her in the harshest way possible, Emma couldn’t see herself going to Spain anytime soon. She took a bite of her toast despite having lost her appetite and having a stomach that felt like it was full of ice. She couldn’t fully bring herself to believe that Regina had dumped her. She wouldn’t. Not like this.
After having had breakfast with her parents, Emma headed down to Granny’s Diner to hang with Ruby. The two friends liked doing that before the early morning rush of hungry customers. Granny had scowled over it, but now she didn’t bother protesting against it. She tolerated it, but sometimes quipped that Ruby hardly was being paid to chitchat with Emma.
Emma plopped down on one of the tall barstools close to the counter. It didn’t take long before Ruby appeared, and Emma ordered her usual morning cup of hot chocolate. She could very well have that at home, but she never did. Emma always took her cocoa at Granny’s.
“Coming right up,” Ruby said briskly. “You want a bear claw with it too?”
“No thanks. Not today,” Emma said after having quickly considering it. She wasn’t very hungry today.
It didn’t take Ruby long to make one cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream and cinnamon. The waitress looked quite proud as she placed the cup in front of Emma. “That gotta be some sort of record.”
“Well done, Rubes,” Emma quipped.
“So...” Ruby leaned forward and rested her arms against the counter. “What’s with the grumpy face?”
“Seriously?” Emma groaned. “Not you too. I do not have a grumpy face.”
“No, not usually,” Ruby agreed. “But today you totally do, so what’s going on? Tell it to aunt Ruby.”
“You are nobodies aunt,” Emma muttered.
Ruby brushed that aside. “What is it, Em?”
Emma took a sip of her cocoa and licked the whipped cream off of her upper lip. Then she admitted: “it’s Regina.”
“Oh,” Ruby said and frowned deeply. “She still hasn’t been in touch?”
“Nope, and now I’m getting worried,” Emma sighed.
Ruby growled and sounded a bit like a wolf. “I’m not. I’m getting pissed! If she’s screwing with you, I’m going to murder her!”
“She’s not,” Emma said quickly. “She wouldn’t.”
“No, Rubes. Trust me. She wouldn’t,” Emma said firmly. “She’s not like that at all. When we said goodbye to each other, we promised that we would stay in touch until I could come back to Spain and see her again.”
Ruby’s smile became a bit sad now. “She’s not... she’s not that old, Em. Maybe she realized that the whole waiting game isn’t her thing anyway.”
But Emma refused to believe that. She shook her head. “Rubes, her age has nothing to do with it. She was crying when we said goodbye in the airport. She wouldn’t have been crying like that if she knew that this wouldn’t last. I refuse to believe that.”
Ruby sighed. “Sometimes your oversized heart has me worried, Em.”
Emma laughed. “I know. But trust me on this one. Regina isn’t the type to do something like that.”
Ruby sighed again. “I have to be an asshole for a minute.”
“Go ahead,” Emma encouraged.
“Is it possible that you don’t know her that well?” the waitress asked and cringed over “having to be an asshole”.
But Emma didn’t see her as an asshole. She saw her as realistic. “I know it sounds naïve,” the blonde agreed. “And I know that I can’t possibly know all about her after just three weeks together, but it feels
like I do. It feels like I’ve known her for a very long time, and my gut feeling tells me that she wouldn’t do something like this.”
“Okay,” Ruby said simply. “What do you think is going on then?”
“I don’t know,” Emma said and clasped her hands together. “And that’s what’s driving me crazy. I know that something is going on, I just don’t know what it is.”
“You told me that she’s been stalked by the angry wife of an asshole?” Ruby said.
“Yeah, that’s right. Marian. She was the one who slapped Regina that night,” Emma said and felt a wave of concern rise.
“You don’t think that she has done something, do you?” Ruby asked. Now she was frowning too and seemed more concerned than pissed off at Regina.
“God, I hope not!” Emma said sincerely and her gut twisted. The thought alone was terrible.
“I hope there’s a natural explanation,” Ruby said. “Like... she’s been robbed and having her phone and laptop stolen.”
“Ruby!” Emma shrieked, protesting as she suddenly imagined Regina being held at gunpoint and threatened. “That’s hardly a natural explanation! God!”
“I’m not talking armed robbery, I’m talking someone who broke into her place while she wasn’t home,” Ruby huffed.
“Okay, but you are like the worst at coming up with explanations!” Emma huffed.
“Sorry,” Ruby said sheepishly.
“At least you’re better at making cocoa,” Emma grumbled as she brought the cup of to her lips and took a sip of her cocoa.
“Granny will be happy to hear that.”
Emma shook her head and chuckled slightly.
“I hope she’ll be in touch, but if not, I’ll personally go to Madrid and kick her ass,” Ruby threatened.
Emma laughed croakily. “I’m sure that won’t be necessary, Rubes.”
“Hmm,” Ruby said. Clearly not convinced.
But Emma plain refused to believe that this was the end of her thing with Regina. She refused to believe that Regina was ghosting her. That simply couldn’t be what was happening, could it? All the moments they had spent together in either Emma’s ridiculously small hotel bed, or Regina’s too narrow little bed in her apartment. All the soft caresses and deep kisses they’d shared. The way Regina had cried in the airport when they said goodbye. That had meant something, right? Regina couldn’t...She WOULDN’T do something like this. Emma had to take an extra large gulp of her cocoa. It felt like she had a massive lump in her throat now.
“Oh, Em,” Ruby said and leaned forward so she could brush a hand over Emma’s arm. “I’m sure she’ll call you.”
“I don’t want it to be over, Rubes,” Emma murmured and cringed. She could easily hear how pathetic she sounded. “I’ve fallen for her.”
“She’ll call you,” Ruby said firmly. “Trust aunty Ruby.”
Despite feeling utterly sad, Emma laughed. “I told you, it’s creepy when you call yourself that.”
“And I told you, I don’t care,” Ruby teased with a snicker and then stretched her neck a little extra when Belle came into the diner.
“Good morning, Ruby, Emma,” the librarian smiled.
“’Morning, Belle,” Emma greeted and returned the smile.
“What can the diner tempt you with today, Isabelle?” Ruby asked, and Emma had the strongest urge to facepalm. Usually, Ruby’s dating game was pretty much on point, but it was clearly completely haywire when it came to Belle.
“’Isabelle’, huh?” Belle teased. “What’s with the formality, Lucas?”
“Just trying something new,” Ruby said lightly, and Emma buried her groan in her cup of cocoa, because oh my god, Ruby was literally the un-smoothest person ever!
But fortunately for Ruby, Belle laughed and affectionately called Ruby an idiot, and despite the offend, Ruby looked as happy as ever she served Belle one cup of coffee to go and then send her on her way.
As soon as she was gone, Emma asked: “the hell was what?”
“Fuck if I know,” Ruby groaned. “That’s what she does to me, Em. She turns me into a fucking idiot.”
“Okay, you have to tell her how you feel!” Emma insisted.
Ruby mumbled something.
“Are you freaking blind? Didn’t you see the way she smiled at you?” Emma pointed out. “I mean, come on, it’s obvious she feels the same!”
“Belle’s not gay,” Ruby said stubbornly.
“No,” Emma agreed. “But she could be gloriously bisexual, and you wouldn’t be any the wiser because you’re too much of a chicken to find out!”
“I am not a chicken!” Ruby protested.
Emma responded by flapping her arms and clucking like a chicken. She did so until Granny emerged from the kitchen and asked who had “let a bloody chicken” inside the diner.
Emma and Ruby laughed heartedly at that. “But in all seriousness though, Rubes,” Emma said when she was done laughing. “I can see the way she looks at you. She was basically flirting with you while she ordered her coffee.”
There was that urge to smash her face against something hard again. “Yes, you idiot!” the blonde groaned.
“So you think I should try and ask her out?” the waitress asked.
“Y-e-s!” Emma hissed. “How can it be that you’re incapable of getting this through your thick skull?!”
Ruby huffed. “You’re rude.”
“But honest,” Emma added, voice softer as she continued: “Belle is so sweet, and you two would make an awesome couple!”
“We would, wouldn’t we...” Ruby said softly. Then she shook her head slightly. “It’s crazy, Em. I’ve been friends with her for years, and suddenly there’s just all these...feelings I can’t explain. Do you
remember the Christmas party we had here?”
“Of course I do,” Emma said. She vividly remembered that. Because Neal had refused to kiss her under the mistletoe. He claimed it was “tacky”. Asshole.
“It was the moment she walked through the door...” Ruby said dreamily and glanced towards the door. “Her hair was down, and she was wearing that red dress...” the waitress shook her head. “I swear to god, the moment I saw her walk through that door, it felt like everything just....shifted.”
“You are so tacky,” Emma said fondly. “I’ve never heard you talk like that about any other girl.”
“Belle’s special,” Ruby said simply.
“Which is why you have to talk to her,” Emma said gently. “You have to tell her how you feel, Rubes.”
“I know,” Ruby acknowledged and looked nervous. “And I will. It’s just... I could lose her for good, Em.”
“Or you could be delighted to discover that she feels the same,” Emma pointed out and smiled encouragingly at her friend. She really hoped that Ruby would tell Belle the truth soon. She had seen the way Belle looked at Ruby. They were idiots in love.
The blonde sighed a bit. She was in love too. Painfully so....
The rest of Emma’s morning passed as it always did. She finished her morning cocoa and headed back to her parents’ place. The house was empty, her parents were at work, and Emma took “advantage” of that and listened to music without headphones while she worked on her website. She was currently reorganizing things. And deleting the pictures she had taken of Neal. She had completely forgotten about that while she was in Madrid, but obviously, that asshat was not worthy to be featured on her professional website. Even if it was a good portrait. Maybe that was what she should do instead of dashing out on jobs all the time. Settle down as a portrait photographer. She could open her own studio. Or maybe she should explore what other options photographing had to offer. Emma pursed her lips as she considered.
Deleting pictures was pretty much something she could do on autopilot, and so Emma’s mind wasn’t completely in it. Her thoughts were wandering to Spain and Madrid and Regina. The blonde felt her gut twist as she looked at one of the many pictures she had snapped of Regina. Emma’s chest tightened. Would she have to delete those pictures too? She bit her lip as she looked at the picture of Regina in full flamenco costume. The picture was taken mid-twirl, and Regina looked absolutely stunning. The blonde sighed and grabbed her phone and found the more private pictures she had taken of Regina.
Her gut twisted again as she looked at the selfie she and Regina had taken. It was the one where Regina was kissing her cheek, and Emma had this dopey, surprised smile going on. Emma swallowed something. She looked so fucking happy in that picture. All glowing cheeks and eyes that sparkled. Happy and healthy. And in love. And she hadn’t even known she was in love when that picture was taken. But oh, how she’d learned. Emma had to swallow something again when she came across that silly video, she had taken of Regina sometime during their last week together. Emma knew it was torture, but she still tapped lightly on the play button. The frozen image of Regina came alive. The video was taken in Regina’s apartment. She was standing with her back to the camera. She was wearing a bathrobe and was in front of the mirror and trying to sort out her hair. Emma’s gut twisted again when she heard her own cheerful voice say: ‘hey, beautiful girl?’
Regina whirled around in the video, and her dark hair danced around her beautiful face. ‘What are you doing?’ she asked with a laugh. ‘Are you filming me?’
Emma heard herself laugh off screen and then reply: ‘maybeeee!’
‘Mmmm, sneaky you!’ Regina laughed and then she was crossing the floor, crawling up in the bed, and Emma heard herself squeal in delight. The screen went black, and Emma knew exactly what had happened after that. Regina had shoved the phone out of her hand. Kissed her hard. Then stripped her of her nightgown. Emma remembered it like it was yesterday. Another gut twist. Emma bit her lip and weighted the phone in her hand. She had to mentally yell at herself to not call Regina again.
Emma did what she was supposed to do that day. She headed out on another photo job. This time she had been hired for a birthday party. A kid’s birthday party. Yup. First animals. Now kids. Emma had preferred working with the large dog brothers. Getting a kid to look in the right direction and smile when he wanted to pout was mighty difficult. The birthday boy wasn’t exactly in a birthday mood. He looked sour, and it didn’t take Emma long to work out that the little tyke was upset because he hadn’t gotten the present he wanted. An Xbox. That was what he had wanted, Emma learned.
“Micky, please smile!” his mother tried.
“No!” the little tyke said stubbornly.
“Aww, come on, kid,” Emma coaxed. “You’ll never ever turn eight years old again. Do you really wanna look sour in the pictures?”
Okay then. New tactic. “Hey, kid? Where do cows go when they wanna have fun?”
Micky looked at her like she had grown an extra head. “Uhh...I dunno?”
“To the moooh-vies,” Emma said and felt pretty hilarious.
Micky seemed to think the same. The boy giggled, and Emma was quick as a ninja as she took the picture. Micky’s little mouth opened wide in protest, and Emma felt like a genius. This was better than the usual “smile for the dicky bird”-routine.
“See? Now you can look back at your eight year birthday party and remember how funny the photographer was,” Emma said with a chuckle.
“That wasn’t fair!” Micky protested.
No, perhaps not. But it worked, and that was the main thing. Now Emma had the picture of a very happy, smiling birthday boy.
“You’re cheating,” Micky said, and the freckles on his nose wrinkled together as he smiled.
“I sure did,” Emma said with a grin. “Do you wanna take another one?”
“Do you know anymore jokes?” he asked.
“I sure do,” Emma boasted. “Why can’t you give Elsa a balloon?”
Micky’s forehead crinkled now. “Uhh... I don’t know?”
“Because she will.... let it go,” Emma said and felt tempted to roll her eyes because she officially just used the cheesiest joke ever. But it worked as intended. Micky laughed, and once again Emma took a
picture of him.
That was pretty much how the photo session went, really. Emma cracked jokes like there was no tomorrow, and the birthday boy laughed heartedly at them. The pictures turned out awesome, and Emma was pleased. Taking a picture of someone who was genuinely laughing was pretty much her favorite part of being a photographer. And the fact that Micky laughed at all her jokes made it so much easier.
Even though working with children could be a bit difficult from time to time, Emma liked being hired for a children’s birthday party. Because it meant that she was invited to stay for a piece of birthday cake afterwards. And if there was something Emma loved, it was birthday cake. Especially this one. All sweet and tasting of cotton candy. Yum!
“That was very impressive,” Micky’s mom said with a smile.
Emma offered a modest shrug and a smile. “Just doing my best, Mrs. Pritchard.”
“Sarah,” the woman corrected. “And you were a natural. Micky can sometimes be... a bit difficult when there’s something he doesn’t want to participate in.”
Emma chuckled slightly. “Well, thank you. I’m glad we got pictures of a smiling birthday boy and not a grouchy one.”
“You were a natural,” Sarah repeated with a smile. “I’m fully aware that photographing a child isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Do you have children yourself?”
“No...” Emma said slowly and was surprised to discover that the innocent question touched a nerve. She and Neal had talked about children on a few occasions. Most of them had been Neal coming up with twenty good reasons why he wasn’t ready. At first, Emma had agreed with him, they weren’t ready, but as the years had passed, and especially after they had become engaged, Emma had felt a certain shift within her and realized that she actually was ready. She had brushed the subject with Neal, but he had just laughed and coaxed her away from the subjects with promises of trips to foreign countries.
There were so many places they needed to see, he had said. So many hotels they had to visit, so many sunsets to be photographed. Emma had to bite her tongue not to scoff. That fucking liar!
“Well, I’m very grateful,” Sarah said, interrupting Emma’s train of thoughts.
“I’m glad Micky thought my jokes were funny,” the blonde quipped, trying her best to snap out of her sudden melancholia.
Sarah chuckled. “Please help yourself to another piece of birthday cake, miss Swan. I’m afraid I’ll have to eat it for the rest of the week otherwise.”
“It’s delicious,” Emma grinned. “I’ll do my best to make room for a second piece.
“Excellent,” Sarah smiled, and then the excited shout from children effectively cut through their conversation. Sarah excused herself and said that she better go and check to see what that shout was about.
Emma was left to her own company. Left to checking her phone. Which she had been refraining from doing all afternoon. But now she simply couldn’t wait another minute. And disappointment hit her hard when she was confronted with the harsh realities: no new messages. No missed facetime calls. No missed phone calls. No nothing. She slipped the phone back in her pocket and sighed as she pinched the bride of her nose.
The rest of that day passed like this: Emma wrapped up the birthday photographing and left with a belly full of birthday cake. And Micky’s plead for just “one more joke, please, miss Swan!”
She drove back home in her little yellow Bug and parked it in front of her parents’ place. She found said parents inside the house where her mom was in the middle of cooking chicken. Emma feigned excitement and told nothing about the fact that she had been stuffing her face with birthday cake like she was one of the kids attending the party and not the oh, so professional photographer. After having being informed of when dinner would be ready, the blonde retired to the darkroom. Without her phone. She stubbornly left that on the kitchen table. No way she was gonna distract herself by staring at it every fifth minute. She threw herself into the photo process and noted that she was being a bit harder on the pictures than normally, and she had to check with herself. Was she getting angry with Regina? Was that what was happening to her? Emma knew that venturing too deep into that question could be dangerous, but she still did, and she discovered that yes, she actually was a bit angry with Regina now. She didn’t want to, but she couldn’t help it. They had agreed to keep in touch. They had agreed to see each other again, and suddenly, bam, nothing but radio silence from Regina. Emma still so wanted there to be a natural explanation for this, but to be perfectly honest, she was running out of options. Running out of excuses. Had Regina really just ditched her? Just like that? The little voice in the back of Emma’s head kept chanting: ‘no, she wouldn’t, she wouldn’t, she wouldn’t,’ but Emma’s anger was starting to overshadow that little voice.
“Looks like I’m about to have my heart broken all over again,” Emma said to the quiet darkroom. She grinded her teeth. There was that fucking lump in her throat again. That lump that made it difficult to swallow. That lump that for some reason made her eyes prickle. Emma almost ended up laughing. She had been angry and yelling when Neal dumped her, but Regina made her cry. Fucking perfect.
She had to stop what she was doing for a moment to rub a hand over her face. Her head was throbbing. She knew exactly what she would do after dinner. She would hawk the bathroom and treat herself to a very long bath. She would dress in her fluffiest pajamas, and then she would go to bed early. Maybe everything would be better tomorrow. Maybe everything would somehow make sense tomorrow.
Emma released a deep and heavy sigh. Somehow, she doubted it. Somehow, she had a terrible feeling that tomorrow would be exactly as bleak as today had been. God damnit. Why was she so unlucky when it came to love? Sometimes it felt like she had some sort of curse hanging above her head. Or a fucked up version of Amor constantly saying “nope” whenever she was unfortunate enough to fall in love with someone.
Emma was extremely relieved when she heard her mom’s gentle voice call: “Emma! Dinner’s ready!” the blonde quickly ceased all activity and headed upstairs. Being in a dark little room clearly didn’t do anything good for her mood.
But she wasn’t hungry either. There was chicken with crispy skin on the menu, and Emma wasn’t hungry. If that wasn’t a tragedy, Emma didn’t know what was. And it didn’t take long before it was noticed.
“You’re not eating anything, honey,” her dad said kindly and patted her hand once.
“I’m not really hungry,” Emma admitted.
“Do you feel sick?” her mom immediately asked and frowned as she reached out to Emma.
“No, I’m just not hungry,” Emma said as she narrowly escaped her mom’s hand. If she hadn’t moved her head, her mother would probably have attempted to feel her forehead like she did when Emma was a little girl. Emma smiled overbearingly. Perhaps it was time for a gentle reminder that she was a full grown woman and not a little girl.
“But it’s chicken!” David said and sounded completely baffled over Emma’s lack of enthusiasm.
“I know,” Emma mock-whined. “And I feel absolutely terrible about it.”
David chuckled a bit, but Mary Margaret’s eyes were kind and concerned as she looked at Emma. “Is it something you want to talk about, sweetie?”
“Nah, it’s okay,” Emma assured and put on a smile. She didn’t want to sing the same old song. That she was sad because Regina hadn’t called, and still pathetically hoped that she would call. That she refused to fully believe that Regina was ghosting her.
“Are you sure?” her mother prodded. Now she was frowning.
“Alright,” Mary Margaret said, and her frown deepened as she looked at Emma’s plate. “But I don’t like that you’re not eating anything, sweetie.”
“I had three pieces of birthday cake at the photo thing,” Emma said nonchalantly.
“That’s not real food! You have to-“
“Mom.” Emma said sternly and flashed her mom a rare glare.
Mary Margaret instantly backed down. “I’m sorry, sweetie. I’m just worried about you.”
“I know,” Emma said, voice softer now. “But I’m okay. It has just been a bit hard to come back and everything. But I’ll find my feet again, okay? I always do.”
“That you do,” her dad agreed and patted her hand again.
“Now tell me...” Emma said, insisting on finding a lighter tone. “Did you arrest Leroy tonight?”
Her father laughed as he confirmed that he did.
The bath didn’t quite have the effect Emma had hoped for. Even surrounded by bubbles, she wasn’t capable of relaxing, and she had ended up cutting the bath short. She had toweled off, braided her hair and then changed into her fluffiest, warmest pajamas. She had said goodnight to her parents who both seemed mildly concerned that she was going to bed that early.
She had naively hoped that she would fall asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow, but unfortunately, that was not how things were gonna go tonight. Eventually, she had gotten frustrated with how many times she had twisted and turned and then she had sat up and grabbed her laptop and headphones. Like so many times before, she had logged into Netflix in the hopes of finding something that could either suck her in until she felt tired or bore her so much, she would fall asleep.
But nothing was working tonight. Not even “The Blue Planet”, her go-to show for sleepless nights. Emma was left frustrated and angry with herself. And definitely not-very-sleepy. She huffed and grinded her teeth as she for the millionth time rolled onto her other side. She didn’t know how long she lied curled up in a tight ball like that, but at some point, she heard the familiar creak on the staircase and then exaggerated tiptoe down the hallway. Her mom was whisperingly scolding her dad for making too much noise, and Emma suffocated a chuckle. She heard some pottering around in the bathroom, the floorboards in the hallway creaked slightly. A light switch was flipped. Murmuring voices. Then nothing. Emma huffed in the silence. If only she’d inherited her mother’s ability to fall asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. That would have come in handy tonight. She should have accepted Ruby’s invitation to the Rabbit Hole. She would probably have slept better if she was a little drunk. But then again, coming back to her parents’ place while being a little drunk? No, thank you.
She really needed to find her own place. Soon. Maybe she should say yes to that apartment. Maybe it was dumb of her to say no just because she was proud and wanted to do things on her own. Maybe moving into that apartment would be the best thing she could do for herself. And her parents. They claimed otherwise, but surely, they missed their privacy. Emma had seen them give each other the googly eyes at least once, and as much as it grossed her out, she was happy to see that they were as in love as ever. Thirty years of marriage and still going strong. The blonde wondered how that felt. Spending thirty years with the same person in blissful marriage. This wasn’t the first time Emma was a bit envious of her parents, and it probably wouldn’t be the last time either.
A yawn slipped past her lips, and Emma felt very satisfied upon realizing that she was actually getting tired. Finally. About time too. She wanted to feel like a functioning human being tomorrow morning. Emma could feel how her body was starting to feel heavier and heavier against the mattress, and she finally surrendered to sleep....
A sharp noise cut through Emma’s silly dream about cotton candy. The blonde woke with a start and felt utterly disorientated. Her heart was pounding in her chest because of the rude awakening. She blinked as she sat up in bed and grappled for her phone. Because that was the source of her rude awakening. The phone. She had forgotten to mute it when she went to bed. Emma finally managed to grab the phone and she had to blink at the brightness on her screen. Then the breath hitched in her throat. ‘Regina calling’, it said loud and clearly on the screen. It also said that it was three in the morning, but that didn’t matter. Nothing mattered right now. Emma was quick to swipe a finger over the screen. She brought the phone up to her ear, and relief seeped through her voice when she said:
“Regina! Thank god!”
“Hola,” came Regina’s voice in the other end, and Emma completely forgot all about being angry at her. “I am sorry for calling now,” she continued. “I know it’s late in Storybrooke.”
“That doesn’t matter,” Emma said quickly.
Regina clearly ignored that. “And I’m also so, so, so sorry for not calling you yesterday. I feel absolutely terrible about it.”
“It’s okay,” Emma said quickly. “That doesn’t matter either.”
“It does,” Regina insisted. “It was not okay, and I want to apologize for that.” Her voice sounded very tired and hoarse. Exactly like it had sounded that evening in the bar when she had been crying as she explained why Marian hated her, and Emma instantly felt worried. “Are you okay?” she asked and sat up more properly in bed.
“No, not really,” Regina said and then quietly added: “¡Todo es un desastre!”
“What’s wrong?” Emma asked and quickly added: “are you sick?” there was that natural explanation she had been looking for. Regina had been ill and therefore not able to call or text or Skype.
“It’s worse,” Regina said. Her voice quivered slightly, and she was sniffling.
“Why? What’s going on?” Emma asked. Now she was getting really alarmed.
“Estoy embarazada,” Regina said, and Emma had no clue what she was saying. Both because she didn’t understand, and because Regina’s voice broke mid through the sentence.
“What?” Emma said. “Regina, I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
For a moment, Regina didn’t say anything at all. She just sniffled in the other end, and Emma was getting more worried by the second. “Beautiful girl...” she said affectionately. “I don’t understand.”
A bit more sniffling, and then....
“I’m pregnant,” Regina whispered.
Emma’s mouth fell open with a pop. Wait, what?! Pregnant?! She struggled to form a coherent sentence while Regina quietly broke down in the other end.
“I...what?” Emma said finally, knowing full well that it wasn’t the smartest thing to say, but it was pretty much the only thing she could think of right now. “You’re...pregnant?”
“S-si,” Regina whispered, and her voice trembled with emotion. “I found out yesterday morning. I’ve been feeling sick all week, but I thought it was just a stomach flu. The pregnancy test was just a p-precaution, but it came back p-positive.”
“My god...” Emma said and struggled to close her mouth.
“I don’t know what to do,” Regina whispered. “I’m too scared to tell my parents because I know what they’re going to say, or at least what my mother will say. She’ll be so disappointed in me, and how am I supposed to support a b-baby? I can’t dance if I’m pregnant, and I can’t work at the bar either. And college? I can't do that either! Siento que me estoy ahogando! I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, and it’s probably not right of me to come to you with all of this because-“
“Woah, woah, woah!” Emma interrupted Regina’s frantic ramble. “Slow down, beautiful girl. Breathe.”
Regina took a shaky breath.
“That’s better,” Emma said gently. “Have you only taken that test?”
“S-Si,” Regina croaked.
“It could be a false positive,” Emma said. She knew for a fact that Belle once had had one of those, and she had been exactly as scared as Regina was right now.
“A...false positive?” Regina whispered.
“Yeah,” Emma said. “It’s rare, but it can happen.”
Regina took another shaky breath.
“Try and take another test, sweetheart,” Emma said gently.
“I can’t,” Regina said hoarsely. “I’m too scared!”
It felt like Emma’s heart was breaking as Regina started sobbing in the other end. Desperate as she was to say something that could soothe the young brunette, Emma ended up saying the worst thing she possibly could: “it’s going to be alright.”
“No,” Regina sobbed. “It won’t. ¡Todo se está cayendo a pedazos!” she sniffled again and clearly tried to compose herself. “B-but I realize that I woke you, and I shouldn’t have, and I’m sorry about that. And I’m so sorry for dumping all of this on you. I shouldn’t have done that either. I’ll... I’ll let you go back to sleep again.”
“You will not!” Emma barked. “Don’t you dare hanging up, Regina! If you do, I’ll keep calling you until you pick up, because there’s no way in hell I’m letting you go when you’re this upset!”
Regina chuckled wetly. “It’s really n-nice to hear your voice, Em-ma.”
“It’s nice to hear your voice too, beautiful girl,” Emma said gently.
“I’m in so much trouble,” Regina said, clearly trying to put a humorous spin on the conversation and failing miserably. “¡Mierda!”
“You might not be,” Emma gently reminded her. “You don’t know that for sure.”
Regina sniffled again. “I’ve been throwing up all week, and the test was positive, Emma. I don’t like the odds.”
“You still have to be absolutely sure,” Emma said softly.
“I can’t take a second test,” Regina croaked. “It’ll come back positive and I’ll lose it completely. Well, more than I’m losing it right now. What am I going to say to my mother?” the young brunette chuckled wetly again. “That she was right, that I am the screw up she always claimed me to be?”
“You are NOT a screwup!” Emma said firmly. “Don’t say that!”
“But it’s true. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t been drunk and s-stupid,” Regina said. Now she was crying again, and Emma’s heart broke all over again. Regina was alone with all of this. She was scared and she had no one to go to. There wasn’t long from thought to action in Emma’s mind.
“Regina, I’m coming to Madrid,” she said firmly.
“¿Q-Qué?” Regina stuttered.
“You heard me,” Emma said, already grabbing after her laptop so she could book a ticket. “I’ll try and find the first flight out of here, okay?”
“Oh no, Emma, I can’t possibly ask you to-“
“You didn’t,” Emma interrupted. “I offered. And nothing you say can change my mind, okay? I’m not letting you be alone with all this. I’m coming to Madrid and I’ll be there when you take that second test.
And no matter what it shows...” she wanted to say that she was going to be there no matter what, but she was interrupted by Regina.
“You shouldn’t,” she said quietly. “Emma, this is... this is my mess. I have to deal with it on my own.”
“I care about you,” Emma said softly. “You know that. And I’m pretty stubborn.”
“I don’t want to drag you into all of this,” Regina said quickly. “I shouldn’t have called you, that was wrong of me. Adiós.” Click.
But there was no reply. Regina had hung up on her. Emma cursed quietly under her breath as she called Regina back.
No answer. Straight to voicemail.
But it didn’t really change anything for Emma. She was going to come to Madrid whether Regina liked it or not. Regina was scared and alone and most likely pregnant, and there was no fucking way Emma was going to let that stand.
Sleep was the last thing on Emma’s mind as she scoured the website for plane tickets to Madrid. It didn’t take long before she found one. The plane would take off from Boston Airport at eight in the morning. Emma glanced at the clock radio. She could actually make that. She quickly clicked “book ticket”, and in the blink of an eye, she had paid for the ticket and received a confirmation email on her phone. With that sorted out she hastily hopped out of bed and hauled her suitcase out from underneath it. She staggered over to it and began shoving random articles of clothing inside it. She didn’t care if it all turned out to be winter clothes. The only thing she was focused on, was getting her ass to Madrid as fast as possible. Adrenaline was pumping through Emma’s system as she found her passport and hauled out one of her larger handbags. The sooner she could get to Regina and take her in her arms the better. Maybe this was a rash decision, but what other alternatives were there? To stay home and let Regina deal with this alone? No way. She couldn’t do that. She just couldn’t.
“I’m on my way, Regina,” Emma muttered to the dark and empty room. “I’m not letting you go through this alone!”
The End.... For Now!