Emma just wanted to explore Storybrooke a little before she went to the fair. Regina was the mayor, so this town obviously meant something to her. It was, beside Henry, the biggest part in her life. Emma wanted to know more about Regina, what made her angry – she had seen that side – or what made her happy, sad and confused. And although Emma refused to admit that she was only driving around Storybrooke in her yellow bug to be closer to its mayor, she found that she liked the little town more with every passing day. And after being there for only two days, that had to mean something.
Her side was starting to get better and although the bruise looked like it could compete with any rainbow, the pain wasn’t as intense as the day before. Breathing was easier and she could move without showing that she was in pain.
On her little trek through Storybrooke she saw plenty of little houses, some smaller apartment buildings and a good number of stores and shops. No malls, a single movie theatre, and a large white and light yellow building that had to be the town hall. Emma smiled to herself as she drove on. There wasn’t much traffic at this time of the day and soon she’d left the last couple of houses behind and was on a road flanked by large trees, similar to the one that led into town. She was about to turn around to head back when she saw something in the distance. The closer she came, one large and several smaller buildings came into view. A sign beside the dusty driveway read ‘Storybrooke Stables’.
Intrigued, Emma drove on, surprised to find and open field hidden by the trees where several horses were calmly grazing. Some of them lifted their heads in the direction of the noise her car was making.
Emma raised her eyebrows, thinking of the dream she’d had the day before. She’d never actually ridden a horse, but in her dream it had felt pretty good. The speed, the sheer strength of the horse moving beneath her. Perhaps she would try it someday. Maybe.
Emma stopped in front of one of the buildings, gravel crunching under her tires, and carefully climbed out of her car. Everything seemed so peaceful, the meadow, the horses. She took a deep breath and winced. Where there were horses there also was the smell of horses. Figures.
“Can I help you?”
Emma quickly turned and found an elderly man smiling at her from his place by the door. He was wearing a dark overall and brown boots. His gray hair was shaggy and sticking up in several places. Emma thought that he had the nicest face she’d ever seen on a person.
“Not really, I was just looking around. I mean I’m new in town, and I had no idea that Storybrooke had stables.”
“We sure do,” the man said and stepped forward. “My name’s Jerry and I’ve been taking care of these stables ever since Madame Mayor had them built couple of years back.”
“Yep. She been riding ever since she was a little girl, so she did what she could that all kids in town could come here and ride. Sorry, didn’t catch your name.”
“Pretty name, real pretty. So you want to ride?”
“Oh no, no, thank you but no.”
“Alright, your choice, but come back anytime if you change your mind. Feel free to look around.”
Jerry turned to head back into the building when Emma took a few quick steps to catch up with him. Inside some horses were in their boxes, snorting happily at the humans entering.
“Does Regina… I mean is she still riding?”
Jerry smiled and nodded. “Follow me.”
Emma quietly shuffled along and looked at each horse as it stared back at her. She felt like she was being seized up before being dismissed. Could horses look haughtily at someone? Emma was sure they could and she was getting the whole ‘who are you, I don’t know if I like you’ treatment. Jerry stopped in front of one of the boxes and gestured toward it.
“That’s Madame Mayor’s horse.”
Emma carefully stepped closer to gaze inside the box. The horse was hidden in the shadows but stepped forward when Emma quietly clicked her tongue. Her eyes widened as the large animal with the shiny black fur coat moved toward her, head raised in a way that undoubtedly reminded her of its owner. Emma stared as the horse came closer and closer until it was gently breathing against the hand she held out to touch it.
“Quite the beauty, isn’t she?” Jerry asked. Emma nodded. She was imagining Regina riding this impressive animal, memories from her dream invading her mind and helping her create a beautiful picture. The horse shook its head and Emma stepped back, turning to Jerry who was still smiling.
“Thank you for showing me.”
“You’re welcome. And my offer stands, anytime you want to ride, just say the word.”
“I’ll remember that.”
Emma shot him one last grin before walking out of the stables and back to her car. People in this town were far too friendly and trusting. She could’ve been some creep trying to steal an animal and Jerry had happily showed her the mayor’s horse, the one that probably was worth the most. Emma had never lived in a small town and she was still in her big city mindset so maybe she just had to just accept the friendliness and curiosity for what they were, simple friendliness and curiosity.
Emma got into her car and drove back the way she’d come.
As soon as she entered the more populated area of Storybrooke she saw people walking on the sidewalks, all of them in the same direction. Couples, families and dogs on leashes were heading to the fair in a steady stream. Emma sighed. She would just be like the new kid in school, everyone was going to look at her and talk about her.
She parked her bug in front of Granny’s B&B and shoved her hands into the pockets of her red leather jacket. Time to face the music. She leisurely strolled past Granny’s diner, simply following in the direction everyone else was going. The fair was taking place on the lawn near town hall, Emma could see the white and light yellow building looming in the distance. It didn’t look grim at all and Emma doubted that Regina was responsible for its colors. She expected her to be more of a black and white kind of woman.
There were several booths scattered all over the place, some of them offering games, others selling food and hot beverages. A good number of people had already arrived, groups of children hurrying from one booth to the next while howling with laughter. Emma slowly made her way across the lawn, watching some high school kids throwing soft balls at an array of old milk bottles.
The longest line was forming in front of one particular booth, Ruby’s. Guys of all ages were lining up for a kiss from her and some women had also found their way into the throng of people. Emma shook her head. She would probably come back later when there was less of an audience. She didn’t like standing in line, but then again who did?
Instead she made a beeline for a booth that was selling cookies and cake. She could never say no to sweets, especially if they looked as delicious as the apple turnovers that were just begging to be eaten. Emma bought one and bit into the still warm pastry, closing her eyes and mumbling quietly to herself.
“Oh god… so good.”
“Well I’m glad you’re enjoying my baking just as much as the rest of the town,” a voice said from behind her and Emma spun around, cheeks puffed with the delicious apple turnover. Her eyes widened as she stared at Regina who was cradling a small plastic box with what looked to be even more heavenly pastries. Henry was right beside her with a huge smile.
“Mom’s turnovers are the best, and her lasagna, but she can’t make that for the fair. Everyone gets her apple turnovers though, they’re usually gone first,” he said with obvious pride.
Regina smiled down at him while Emma was still busy chewing and swallowing.
“They are amazing,” she said as soon as she was sure she could speak without spewing apple all over the place. Regina raised an eyebrow at her as if saying ‘of course they are’.
“So you want to play some games while mom helps with setting stuff up?” Henry asked, turning hopeful eyes to her.
“I…uh… well sure, I guess, if that’s okay with you?”
Emma looked at Regina and found her staring at them with an indefinable expression before she smiled thinly and nodded.
“Sure, just stay in sight Henry, I’ll be over here.”
He nodded happily and grabbed Emma’s hand to drag her along and off toward some booths on the other side of the lawn. Where did the kid get his energy? The couple of days she’d known him he was always excited about one thing or another, making her do things she could’ve easily denied any other kid. But with his adorable smile and bouncy way of requesting things she found it impossible to tell him no. God, was Regina dealing with that every day?
She made their way around the fair, playing with oversized squirting guns and winning a small plastic sheriff star that Henry clipped to the front of his shirt. Regina would be thrilled about the holes in what probably was some expensive cashmere fabric.
Henry dragged her to the booth where people had to throw balls at cans next and after missing two of his shots handed the ball to Emma.
“I don’t know if I can take them all down kid.”
“Just try it.”
It wasn’t the first time Emma had a ball in her hand and she was pretty decent at throwing so she decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately she’d completely forgotten about her bruised ribs from the day before. She’d hardly felt them at all the last couple of hours and gasped in surprise at the sudden pain that shot through her side as she hurled the ball and hit the cans. They all clattered to the ground and Henry seemed to take her quiet yelp as way of celebrating their victory. Instead Emma was clutching at her side with both hands while smiling through the pain as Henry picked out the stuffed lion he’d wanted. Emma took several deep breaths until she could stand without trying to protectively curl in on herself to soothe her aching side.
“Oh hey, we have to go to the kissing booth too, Ruby said I had to stop by at least once,” Henry announced.
Emma raised an eyebrow at him and looked up to scan the crowd before glancing at Ruby behind her booth. She’d obviously persuaded every single inhabitant of Storybrooke to
pay for a kiss from her, and here Emma had thought she was special. She nodded to Henry and made her way over to the booth, the line now considerably shorter.
Emma grinned as Henry timidly stuck his dollar into the jar and dove in to kiss Ruby’s cheek. Obviously having done this before Ruby turned her head to press a quick peck to Henry’s cheek in return. He chuckled as he stepped aside, seemingly delighted that he was getting a special treatment.
“It’s a dollar?” Emma asked and produced her wallet from the depths of her pockets. Ruby nodded with a grin and Emma made a show out of pulling five dollars out of her wallet and stuffing them into the jar.
“Do I get five kisses now?”
“One payment, one kiss. Sorry, no special treatment.”
“But Henry got it.”
“Because we’ve always been doing that,” Henry piped up, shaking his head at Emma for expecting something out of the ordinary.
She smirked and made a show out of slumping her shoulders and sighing dramatically. “Okay then.”
Ruby was silently laughing as she smacked her lips in an exaggerated way. Emma smirked and leaned forward, wincing at the way her side hurt with the movement. She played it over by pursing her lips to give Ruby a small peck, but when her lips connected with Ruby’s a hand on her neck held her in place. She felt Ruby smiling against her lips as she prolonged their kiss for several more seconds before briefly sucking on her bottom lip and letting go. Emma stared at her a little dumbfounded.
“You’re welcome,” Ruby said with a small wink and straightened.
“Huh?” Emma asked, narrowing her eyes. Ruby jerked her chin in the direction of something behind her and Emma turned to see Regina staring at them from across the lawn.
Emma could tell by the way she held herself in a rigid posture, shoulders pulled back into a straight line, that she was angry. Emma sighed and absent-mindedly rested a hand against her side, just hovering over the bruised area. Emma couldn’t really tell from the distance but she thought she saw Regina’s eyes flickering down at her movement.
“Hey Emma let’s try this,” Henry called, diverting her attention from his mother. He was already at the next booth with a group of children trying to throw rings over bottles that were way too large to fit. Emma followed him and tried her luck with the bottles, paying another dollar, and losing as expected. If this kept on going she would be completely broke by the end of the day.
She ventured to a couple of more booths with Herny until they had circled around and returned to where Regina was still helping set up all the baked goods. She looked oddly domestic as she pulled lids from cake containers and rearranged muffins by color and size. Emma smiled as they approached but Regina only glared at her icily before hugging Henry into her side and letting him pick whatever treat he wanted. He didn’t even have to ask.
Emma sighed quietly and watched them talk. Yeah, Regina was being an absolute bitch to her, but Emma had to admit that she was an amazing mom, someone she would’ve done anything to have in her life when she was young. Henry turned to her, holding a cookie and a piece of chocolate cake.
“Are you going to come to the Haunted Trail with us tonight?”
Emma blinked. “The Haunted… what? It’s not Halloween.”
“I know, but we still do the Haunted Trail every year at the fair, everyone loves it and some people dress up and hide to scare others. It’s awesome.”
“Yeah, no, I don’t think so kid.”
“I just don’t like haunted houses, or trails too much. Not my kind of thing.”
“So you’re saying you’re scared of a couple of badly dressed zombies?” Regina asked, a little too much mirth in her tone for Emma to ignore.
She narrowed her eyes and raised her chin. “I’m not scared.”
“So you’ll come?” Henry asked.
Again with those large hopeful eyes. How could she say no?
“Yeah fine, I’ll come.”
Regina raised an eyebrow at her and Emma had to fight the urge to stick out her tongue in defiance.