Her assistant had left her with a pile of paperwork, two notes regarding issues requiring her attention within the next two days, and a comment about how pleasant it had been to work with the mayor since Regina’s return from her weeklong vacation, stating the break must have done her a world of mental good.
Regina wasn’t completely certain, but she felt as though her assistant was waiting for her to reply in some way to the comment, so she’d thanked her for the compliment, which had only served to further confuse the younger woman, who had left the mayor’s office in a somewhat dazed and confused state.
Of all the things she could have learned in what she’d come to call her ‘manuals,’ one of the biggest components that should have been in there was not, and Regina constantly cursed her former self for leaving it out because it would have answered why her assistant had responded how she just had.
The biggest answer to the biggest question was nowhere to be found.
Why did everyone seem to hate her and/or fear her? Why was everyone so surprised when she offered them a kind word or a note of honest praise? Why did everyone seem to expect her to be violent with them or manipulative in some way? Why had her former self decided that wiping her memories like this was a good idea?
It was frustrating, stressful, and taxing. Regina felt drained all the time. The energy it took to maintain the façade of knowing what was happening when, in fact, she had no clue most of the time was strenuous. The challenges of navigating through a sea of people who clearly expected her to be one type of person when she wasn’t even remotely close to that type of person took a significant toll on her. Trying to persuade them she wasn’t a dirty politician was a monstrous task.
She had considered telling someone about her plight, perhaps the Sheriff. However, her former self’s warnings about Emma Swan still stuck with her despite the fact Regina had ignored a large portion of them. She needed a friend, and Sheriff Swan fit that bill nicely. However, she still wasn’t sure sharing with Emma the facts surrounding her loss of memory was a good idea.
There was a reason why she had done this to herself, and Regina needed to know what it was before she shared her situation with anyone else. After interacting with the town for nearly a month, it was clear to her that signs of uncertainty would be read as displays of weakness, which was something she couldn’t afford to show to the mass populace. She needed to be a strong leader.
Uncertainty was weakness, and she couldn’t have that.
So, it was with a confidence she didn’t feel that she walked into the diner to order lunch. Her briefcase held the stack of papers she’d yet to finish, and her mind raced with a thousand questions all related to The Big Question. Why?
She slid into the back corner booth and pulled out a report on the infrastructure needs for the farm-to-market roads lying just inside the jurisdiction of the town. The report was at least 30 pages long, highlighting essential requirements, budget restrictions, and timeframes. It was going to be a long read, and she had already accepted she’d probably be sitting in the dinner for a couple of hours as she slowly ate while trying to digest the contents of the report.
The waitress, whose full name Regina had finally remembered without trouble was Ruby Lucas though she’d noticed some people called her Red, stepped up to her booth with a friendly smile on her face. “Good afternoon, Madam Mayor. What can I get you today? Your usual?”
“Yes, Miss Lucas, thank you,” Regina returned the smile with a warm one of her own. “And a cup of coffee, please.” She held up the report. “I feel I’m going to need it.”
Ruby cocked her head to the side, asking playfully, “Big day at the office?”
“While the sheriff may come in here and complain about saving cats from trees,” the mayor deadpanned, “I’m afraid my complaints are far less exciting. No one wants to hear about my trials regarding how often to lay down a fresh layer of dirt on FM 42.”
“The Yellow Brick Road?” The waitress snorted. “Does anyone even use that thing anyone?”
Regina blinked. This town had the strangest names for things. “The what?”
“FM 42. We call it The Yellow Brick Road because Zelena used to live down the…” Ruby stopped talking, her face dropping into a frown, and Regina scanned her brain to try and recall why the name Zelena was important. “Oh, Regina, I’m sorry. You probably don’t want to be reminded of all of that.”
Reminded of all of what? “It’s quite alright, Ruby. Things become easier with time.” She gave a tight smile and hoped that answer fit whatever situation they were discussing.
The young woman scrunched her face up in confusion which, oddly, turned into concern. “Still, I know she was your sister, and that had to be hard despite,” she made a vague hand motion, “you know, everything.”
She frowned, trying to recall what she’d read about the woman. There was something about Zelena being wicked or a bitch or… something. Letting out a heavy sigh, she closed her eyes for a brief moment, and the light bulb went on. Zelena had committed suicide recently. “However,” she opened her eyes and looked up at the waitress, giving the other woman a reassuring look, “I really do appreciate your concern. That entire situation was very difficult, and, as you might imagine, it’s something I’d rather not discuss.”
“Oh, yeah,” Ruby gave a little nod, “I understand that. So,” she looked up as the door jingled, and she winced. “Oh, um, do you want a to-go order instead of staying here?”
Regina followed her line of sight and saw a man, his wife, and their son walk into the diner. He looked handsome in a rugged sort of way, his wife had lovely curls, and their son was tiny and adorable. She smiled at the young boy’s antics as he dragged his father along to a table. “No,” she tilted her head to the side as she pulled her eyes back to the waitress, “why would I want to? I just settled in, and I really do need to read this report. If you think you’ve made me uncomfortable because you accidentally mentioned my sister, you didn’t. It really is fine, Ruby. I understand you meant nothing by your comments.”
Ruby looked from the family to Regina back to the family and turned back to Regina. “Well, I realize this is none of my business, but Robin and his family just walked in. I just kind of assumed you wouldn’t want to be anywhere near them right now.”
“Who?” The question was out of her mouth before Regina could stop it, and it was clearly the wrong thing to say because the waitress looked dumbstruck.
“Robin.” The younger brunette sighed. “I know you’re trying to move on, and that’s great, but, come on, Regina. You don’t have to act like you’re not still hurting. It’s been less than two months since Emma brought Marian back. It’s okay if you don’t want to be around that. No one’s going to blame you for wanting to be somewhere else.”
“Robin?” There wasn’t a single mention of a Robin in her manuals. This wasn’t going to end well. Her mental rant about her former self intensified. “I’m sorry, I don’t…” She reigned it in. Obviously, she knew this Robin person. She needed to get information without tipping her hand. “To which situation are you referring?”
“Seriously?” Concern etched all over the waitress’s face, she slid into the seat across from the mayor. She lowered her voice, bending over a little so the older woman could hear her above the diner’s usual light background noise. “You can’t just act like you don’t know who he is, Regina. Robin and his wife aren’t just going to go away, and ignoring something just makes it worse. Look, I know I’m the last person you probably want to talk to considering who my best friend is, but you should talk to someone about all of this because I know it has to be eating at you. Don’t be mad at me for saying this, but, just because Robin is your soul mate doesn’t mean you can’t find love somewhere else. I don’t think soul mates are always romantic pairings anyway, and you can have more than one true love, Regina.”
Soul mates? True love? Had Ruby Lucas lost her mind? “Ruby,” Regina’s voice was calm and patient, though laced with some irritation. All the mayor had wanted to do was eat lunch and read her reports, not deal with whatever drama this was. “I don’t care what Robin does. He’s obviously involved. So long as he pays his taxes, doesn’t get arrested, and votes for me in the next election, he can do as he pleases.” She reached out and laid a hand on the younger woman’s arm. “You’re mistaken in whatever you think happened between me and that man across the way. I give you my word,” she offered a smile, “I’m fine.” She gave a little pat and then pulled her hand back. “Now, about my lunch? I was thinking that, instead of…”
She was interrupted by a little voice calling her name and pair of bright eyes peeking out at her from just above the side of her table. “Regina!” The little boy with a mop of messy brown hair gave her a dimpled smile. “Hi!”
She smiled in return and chuckled. “Hello there, young man,” she raised her eyebrows and her voice took on a playful tone. “Where did you come from?” She knew. He was the man, Robin’s, son.
“Over there,” the little boy said, turning to point toward his parents, who had yet to notice he wasn’t at the table. They were both engrossed in looking over their menus.
The mayor turned to the waitress and sighed. “Miss Lucas?” Ruby shuddered back from wherever her thoughts had taken her. “My lunch, please?”
“Um… yeah, sure. I’ll just…” Ruby glanced from the little boy to his parents and then back to Regina. “I’ll get right on that.” With one last tentative look between the three, she slid from the booth to go place the order.
“Regina?” The little boy climbed into the booth right next to her. “Where did you go?”
She scooted over to accommodate him, still smiling at his brashness. Most little children would be scared of strangers, but perhaps he wasn’t because he knew her as the mayor of the town? “When,” she asked as she gave a nod of thanks for the coffee Ruby placed on her table.
“A long time ago? When Mama came back.” He tilted his head in question. “Where did you go? You stopped playing with me and Papa.”
Realization struck. She had been dating Robin. Did this mean she’d been part of some kind of infidelity? She certainly hoped not. Thinking quickly, she came up with the best reason why a single woman dating a married man might not come back around once the wife was back in the picture. “Well, I thought your parents might like some time together.”
It sounded like a poor reason even to her own ears, but the young boy seemed to think it over and approve of the reason. “Are we still friends?”
He was too precious to hurt. Her natural instinct was to protect his feelings, and, really, was there a reason not to? “Of course!”
“I’m glad.” He reached out and picked up her highlighter, pulling off the cap and staring down at the tip as if he’d never seen anything like it before. “Are you and Papa still friends?” He put the lid back on and stared very hard at the office supply as he turned the highlighter over in his hands to look at it from all directions.
“Well,” she internally winced. She should have seen that question coming. Were they still friends? She really didn’t know.
She was saved when a baritone voice cut in. “Roland, perhaps you should leave Regina alone? She looks like she’s very busy.”
Looking up, she found Robin standing next to her table with his wife by his side. “It’s alright,” she reassured gently, “I don’t mind. He’s a very well behaved child.”
“He’s my child,” the woman, Marian Regina assumed, hissed.
“Marian,” Robin’s voice was laced with warnings to not cause a scene. Regina, however, smiled to herself. Assumption correct! That was, in fact, Marian. Wait a moment, she mentally frowned. His name was Robin and her name was Marian? As in Maid Marian and Robin Hood?
She didn’t have time to contemplate the thought more. Roland was forcefully pulled from the booth beside her by his mother. He protested, but she ignored him, placing him on her hip in a way that could only be described as protective and possessive.
Regina was confused. What had she done? Had she destroyed this marriage? What kind of woman was she?
“Mama! Regina wouldn’t hurt me.” Roland’s small voice called out in distress, “Right, Regina?”
“No,” the mayor agreed, confused and very worried about what she may have done. “I wouldn’t. I have a son of my own. I would never hurt a child, or…”
“Don’t give me that,” Marian snapped. “I know what you’re capable of. I’ve seen the destruction and devastation you’ve caused, the thousands of lives you’ve destroyed.”
“Marian,” Robin cut in again, this time a bit stronger. “Let’s not do this here. We’ve been over this. She’s not that person anymore.”
“You say that,” his wife shot back, “but you weren’t being held in one of her cells, Robin. You weren’t being prepared for execution simply because you refused to tell her where Snow White was hiding.” Regina raised her eyebrows in surprise. Snow White? What..? “No, instead, you go off and start seeing her once you think I’m dead. How could you! And now I learn that my son seeks comfort with her. How dare you put our child in that kind of danger!”
Regina listened intently to the rant. Robin’s wife had just mentioned Snow White and executions and… Was Marian mentally off? This woman had just accused her of trying to put her to death. What was going on here? Regina was a mayor, not some kind of… oh. The moniker the miner had called her earlier came back to her. Evil Queen. She visibly winced. What kind of monster had she been before Boston?
“No,” Robin shot back, this time raising his voice over her and quieting her down. “I thought you died of disease while I was in the forest trying to care for our family. It was years, Marian, years that I mourned your loss while I raised our son alone. I had no idea she had taken you prisoner. No,” he shook his head, his voice lowering again to a normal level, “not her, not this woman.” He pointed at Regina. “The Evil Queen.” He shook his head. “That’s not her. This woman,” he gestured again at the mayor, “she saved Roland from the Wicked Witch’s monkeys. For a year, she took care of him when she thought I wasn’t looking. She saved this town from destruction, and she’s not evil, Marian. She would never hurt Roland.” He ran a hand over his face, sighing. “I know this is difficult for you to understand, but Regina Mills is not the Queen, and this anger you’re holding will do no one any good. We’re all stuck here.” He was starting to plead. “We must find peace with each other. She’s a good caregiver. I would entrust Roland’s safety to her without question, as I would entrust my own life into her care. She’s not going to hurt us, nor is she going to try to destroy our family.” He turned to look at Regina. “Are you?”
“No,” Regina slowly shook her head in the negative as she added ‘Wicked Witch’ and ‘flying monkey’s to her mental list of insanity that had popped up during this confrontation. Glancing around, she noted silently that the entire diner had stopped and had turned to watch the scene. She sighed. As a politician, this was the last thing she wanted the town to talk about. It hurt her public image. “Of course not,” she offered reassuringly. “I won’t be responsible for breaking apart a marriage, and,” she turned to look at Marian, “if you’d like for me to have nothing to do with your husband or your son, I’ll try very hard to do so. However, I didn’t seek them out. Little Roland came by to tell me hello, which is fine. As I’ve said before, he’s a well behaved child. I would love to be able to interact with him, but, if it’s going to cause this much derision, I’ll be sure to send him back to you as quickly as possible should he come to see me again.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Robin answered before his wife could respond. “I trust you, Regina.” He gave a small, sad smile. “That much, at least, hasn’t changed. If Roland wants to see you, then he shall.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. Why was he being so difficult toward his wife, who clearly hated her? “Perhaps you should discuss this more with Marian?”
The woman in question glowered, growling something underneath her breath before storming out of the diner. He husband sighed. “I’m sorry,” he said, his eyes turned toward the slamming door. “I really am trying to get her to recognize you’re not evil anymore. It’s just going to take time, you understand?”
“Go after your wife, Robin,” she said in a tired voice. Where was her food? She just wanted to read her reports. “Don’t worry with me. I’ll be fine.”
He nodded, leaving to go after his family.
Regina closed her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger of her left hand as she took a long drink of her lukewarm coffee. What kind of life was she living before her trip to Boston?
“That was quite the scene.” She opened her eyes to find the owner of the diner standing beside her table with her order in her hand.
“I’m sorry,” Regina offered weakly. “I had no idea that would happen. I didn’t mean to cause a disturbance inside your place of business.”
“I’d say that, for once,” the older woman sat the plate down, careful of the paperwork on the table, “it wasn’t you causing the scene.” She looked down her nose, at the mayor. “You handled that better than I expected.”
“What was I going to do?” The younger woman sighed, pushing her papers around and pulling her plate forward, “Have her arrested for berating the woman who was dating her husband?” She shook her head. “That wouldn’t really accomplish much, would it?”
“You didn’t know,” Eugenia offered, an odd look on her face. “I don’t think you’d have dated him if you’d know, but he didn’t know either. We all thought she was dead.” She cocked an eyebrow, looking at the mayor over the rim of her glasses. “Are you okay, Regina?”
“Fine,” the other woman replied with a shrug. “A bit hunger, somewhat embarrassed by the scene, and anxious to read this report, but, otherwise, I’m perfectly fine.”
“Okay,” Eugenia’s voice sounded less than convinced. “Well, let us know if you need anything else.”
Regina nodded, giving a little smile of thanks. “I will, thank you.” With that, she turned to pick up her report in one hand as she began to slowly eat her lunch.
“What’s wrong with Regina?” Granny didn’t even say hello. Those were the first words out of mouth as soon as she burst into the sheriff’s station. Emma, who had only just returned herself after spending her morning and lunch reinforcing the protection spells Gold had put around the mayor’s various haunts, could only stare dumbly at the older woman from her place behind her desk.
“Don’t ‘huh’ me, Emma. Something is wrong with Regina, and I know you know what’s going on.” Granny crossed her arms and stared the blonde down. “She leaves for Boston, comes back, and she’s suddenly a different person. You two are getting along like two peas in a pod, and Regina just had a run-in with Robin and Marian at my diner that ended peacefully. Something is going on, and I want to know what it is.”
Emma groaned, closing her eyes against the exhaustion using her magic all morning had caused and the now added bonus of dealing with Eugenia Lucas on a rampage. “Nothing,” she said as she opened her eyes again. “Regina’s fine.”
“Like hell she is.” Granny pointed a finger at her. “Don’t try to pull a fast one on me. That woman sitting in my diner right now is not Regina Mills. Who is it?”
“Regina.” Emma ran a hand over her face and sighed. This was bound to happen eventually. Maybe it was better to let the cat out now before all hell broke loose with Hades. She grimaced. Really? Hades and Hell? Whatever.
Shrugging, she added, “At least, that is Regina Mills if Regina Mills had never been raised by Cora or been screwed up by Gold.”
Eugenia lowered her head, glaring at the sheriff. “What?”
“Henry and I think that, when Regina went over the town line this time, it wiped her memories of being the Queen from the Enchanted Forrest. It’s weird. She knows a lot of things she probably shouldn’t if that were the case, like stuff about Henry’s childhood. But there’s enough she doesn’t seem to remember that makes us think she doesn’t really remember who she is. This is Regina if Regina had grown up here and become mayor of the small town of Storybrooke, Maine… if that makes sense?”
“Are you kidding me?” Granny cocked an eyebrow.
“Nope,” Emma replied with another shrug.
“Did she do it on purpose?”
The blonde ran a hand through her hair. “No clue.”
“Can we get her memories back?” Granny waved a hand in the air, making a motion to indicate their surroundings. “What if something happens and we need the Queen? Does she even know she knows magic?”
“We probably can, we could probably make due, and no.” Emma leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. “Henry and I want to keep her this way as long as we can. She’s happy. She’s not trying to get revenge on anyone. She’s honestly trying to be a good mayor and a good mom. She’s not carrying around all that emotional baggage, so she’s not hurting all the time.” Her face fell as the memory of Regina’s look when Marian saw Robin again flashed through her mind. “What could it hurt to protect her for once?”
“Is that what you and Henry have been doing? Protecting her?” Granny rolled her eyes. “Or are you just trying to keep her from remembering she’s mad at you?”
“No.” Emma’s voice went cold. “This isn’t about me. This is about her. For once in her life, I’m going to make sure someone is watching out for her.”
“You can’t keep the town from treating her differently, Sheriff. You can’t keep people from talking to her as if she knows everything. She’s eventually going to figure out that something is wrong with this town, and it’s only a matter of time until she realizes who she is.” Crossing her own arms, Granny shook her head. “It’s not a matter of if but when. You can’t save her from herself.”
“Gold knows, and now you know.” The younger woman stood, pulling her jacket back on and shifting the badge on her hip. “He’s not telling anyone, and I expect you to keep it to yourself, too. If someone had been looking out for her when she was younger, she’d never have become what she was before she cast the curse. It can’t hurt for us to at least try to protect her this time, can it? It’s our second chance to do right by someone who has a good heart, or do you think she doesn’t deserve it?”
“Honestly? I don’t know.” Granny took the cue and followed Emma to the front door. “I’ll keep it to myself for now, but people are starting to talk. They’ll figure it out.”
“Let them,” Emma said as she held the door open. “And I’ll be right beside Regina to help her deal with it when they do.”
Granny stopped just outside the doors and turned to really consider the blonde. “Emma, even if she doesn’t remember, she’s still the woman who tried to kill your family several times.”
“I know,” the blonde said, sighing heavily. “I knew before she left for Boston, and I know now. It doesn’t change anything; it never did.” She locked the station door, giving the doors a pull to double check it.
“You’re playing a dangerous game,” Granny warned.
“Story of my life,” Emma grunted before turning away from the older woman and heading toward her squad car.
Eugenia watched her go, making a mental note to talk to Mary Margaret and David about that last part of the conversation she’d just had. If Emma insisted on saving the unsavable, then someone needed to watch over her to pick her up after she’d gotten hurt from the attempts.