A/N: Welcome back everyone! For those of you who read this when I first published this story, I would like you to know I did some editing and added two small scenes, in case anyone would like to read this one again! There will be one more note after this chapter to kick off this story, but for now, enjoy!
She tumbles through the door; feet aching from the fucking five inch heels that another scumbag forces her to wear. She leans heavily into the doorframe, hoping this rickety building can hold all one-hundred and twenty-five pounds of her as she kicks off the glossy red pumps and curses under her breath at the ricocheting sound that bounces off the walls and assaults her ears.
Very carefully, she turns the golden handle and eases the door closed, her jaw clenched tightly in hopes she doesn't disturb her sleeping roommates. A relieved sigh escapes her lips as she softly locks the door, in four very different places that she assembled by herself to ensure their safety in this armpit of New York, because god forbid her landlord crawls out from his sewer unless it's to collect rent. She doesn't care what anyone says, that man is Danny DeVito in his Penguin getup from Batman.
The two bedroom apartment is pitch-black, but she's done this walk too many times to even think twice about where her bare feet should step on the hardwood floors. She has every creek, every broken board memorized by now and can easily slip into the living room like a ninja. If sneaky ninjas wore skimpy red dresses that scream, 'please tip me better for this wonderful view of my chest spilling over the top'.
She sinks down onto the couch with an exaggerated sigh and carefully turns on the television. Her thumb already repeatedly pressing down on the volume button in case a certain someone was blaring the television all afternoon. She allows the volume to stay at a softer tone, mostly she just needs the white noise to keep her occupied and she still blames her mother for that one.
Her droopy eyes fall down to the coffee table, where sheet after miserable sheet is staring up at her, taunting her in bold, red ink that might as well be printed in cold blood. She groans somewhere in the back of her throat and musters up all the courage she owns to snatch up one of the bills. Another late bill. Another dollar she cannot find fast enough in the grime of New York City. Shame and regret, but mostly humiliation settles into her bones and seeps out into her veins, it prickles at her blood like jumping into a frozen lake and instantly immobilizes every inch of her body.
How the hell are they ever going to climb out of this hole? That's the only statement that beats repeatedly into her skull, every damn day.
"In other news," the television mumbles in its hushed whispers that she forced upon it. "Child prodigy, Regina Mills, was spotted today at a cafe in New York City after three months of ghosting society. Sources say that the singer was simply spending some much-needed time with her family before her world summer tour that just so happened to be leaked today."
"Hey," the usual soft voice is unfamiliar and scratchy from her sleep and causes Emma to leap in fear that someone made it passed her cheap locks. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."
She sighs in relief when she locates the frail frame, glowing from the illuminating light bouncing off the television. She's tying her robe loosely around her waist and Emma immediately shuffles on the couch, allowing the older woman to sit down beside her.
"What are we going to do?" Emma groans, tossing one bill down just to retrieve another one that is so depressing, she thinks of jumping right off that hazardous balcony that they never step foot on.
"I know it seems bad right now, but we will make it out of this mess. We always do. For now, we make cut backs. Like cable," dark eyes dart in the direction where a scene of wild teens are bombarding Regina Mills as she struts confidently down the congested streets of New York. "We don't need cable. Summer is right around the corner and I know I will be spending most of my time teaching summer school."
Emma sighs as if every stressor in her life is attacking her lungs and she just needs to breathe them out, so she can think straight. She runs all ten antsy fingers through her wild hair as she squeezes her eyes shut, praying that when she peeks passed her eyelids again, a new life will be waiting for her. She's greatly disappointed when she finds the shitty apartment still waiting for her when she decides to open her eyes again.
"This is all my fault."
"It is not, stop blaming yourself."
"No, you can't protect me anymore, I need to own up to all my mistakes. I should have never made us leave Storybrooke. We should have stayed put and-"
"And what? Never follow your dreams? Drown in a small town where you could never grow or thrive?"
"We were comfortable. We were stable-"
"And you would have never lived up to your fullest potential in that place."
Emma swallows thickly, because her stomach is turning from just the idea of living one more damn minute in that pitiful, pocket-sized town. A fucking ant would feel claustrophobic in that peppy place.
"It was selfish," she complains, busying herself with shuffling all the bills together into one neat pile off the wooden coffee table from the thrift store down the street. "I could have waited to pursue a career as a makeup artist. I've had four gigs in the last six months and working on weekends at some skeezy dive bar, isn't cutting it. I need to work more hours there or find an office job, but then I wouldn't be-"
"Emma, relax," a warm comforting hand is placed against her back and she instantly melts into the familiar touch. "We will be just fine."
"How can you be so infuriatingly optimistic?" She grumbles as a delicate flowery scent fills her nostrils and settles her erratic heart that's just begging for her to flee this situation.
"Because, I'm your mother and we've made it this far in life," Mary Margret coos as she pulls her fragile daughter against her chest and holds her close, breathing in her familiar scent.
"I don't know why I thought I could make it in New York, there are a thousand other makeup artists out here," she muffles her complaint against her mother's fluffy robe. "All my fault," she mutters once again.
"We are not placing blame here. If we do that, then I am the one to blame."
"Mom," Emma disapprovingly warns, pulling away from the warm embrace and rolling her eyes in annoyance.
"No, let's play the blame game," her mother nonchalantly replies, "I was irresponsible for giving birth at sixteen and running off with you at seventeen when I had no business raising a baby on my own-"
"Stop. You worked, went to night school, became a teacher all while raising me and what am I doing? Chasing a dream that will forever be out of reach."
"Oh stop it!" Mary Margret cups her daughter's cheeks and presses a loving kiss that promises the world and so much more to her. "I promise you, you'll get your chance. Just you wait and see, something amazing is just waiting around the corner for only you."
A/N: I would just like to say that this story took me a very long time to create. I spent a lot of time on the depth of Emma and Regina and I hope everyone enjoys this journey. Most of you know how I write, I don't sugarcoat life and I write about real life situations that people face every day, however I always write a happy ending. Please think of this story as a romance novel you find on a bookshelf and enjoy the ride along the way. This story means a lot to me and I put a lot of time and heart into it to allow these characters to grow. I hope this story helps people who relate to the topic, open up about their own experiences and know that you aren't alone. People struggle every day and I just want to shed some light on the topic and I hope I do it justice, so please read at your own risk. Thank you again for always being such dedicated readers and I hope you all fall in love with this story as much as I have!