It starts with a lot of text messages. All of which go unanswered.
It ends with something like a proposal and Emma’s collection of leather jackets in the front hall closet nestled between Regina’s Burberry coats.
“How many times do I have to say I’m sorry?” Emma’s hunched over the diner counter, phone clutched in both hands. “How many ways can I say I’m sorry? I’m just really sorry.”
Ruby rolls her eyes, slides Emma’s tab across the counter, “You’re obsessing and it’s stressing me out.”
“Yeah, imagine how I feel.”
She hasn’t heard from Regina in days. No one has. But she keeps texting instead of trying to torch the bridge to the ground.
“Maybe just give her some space. How would you like it if your boyfriend’s dead wife showed up? I mean especially if you killed said wife. Yikes.”
Emma’s drawn out suffering sigh can be heard across town.
“How many ways can I say I’m sorry?” It’s week three. Emma’s hunched over the kitchen counter, phone still clutched in one hand. The other hand is wrapped around a hard cider she found in the fridge.
“Don’t you dare send her an edible arrangement,” David’s got a cider in his hand too. “That is tacky and immature. Unlike this fine hard cider.”
“I’m guessing you’re speaking from experience on that one. And Dad, this is Angry Orchard, it’s like bougie apple juice. It’s not fine and it, like an edible arrangement, is tacky and immature. Also delightful, but totally not the point.”
David frowns at the cider and shrugs, “I’m only trying to help.”
She doesn’t send an edible arrangement, but she does send a basket of expensive jams and cheeses. With a handwritten note in her best cursive. With an apology. And some over priced cabernet from some stupid vineyard in Napa. She briefly wonders if Regina has ever been to wine country. Mainly because Regina has a wine cellar that makes Emma’s head spin.
She receives no thank you text and no acceptance of apology.
“Maybe you should try something a little more unconventional,” is Henry’s suggestion. He’s got a new stack of comic books, no doubt a gift from his other mother, and he’s buried his nose in one on the couch while Emma obsesses over her message thread (or lack thereof) with Regina.
“Like what?” Emma barely looks up, still reading messages from the beginning of the previous month. “Like a new saddle?”
Henry shakes his head and doesn’t bother to even look up, “I’m sure that wouldn’t hurt, but not really what I was trying to say.”
“I’m gonna get her a new saddle.”
Henry shrugs, “Mom likes Hermés.”
Emma’s got the site pulled up on her iPad before Henry can say another word. “Shit, kid, these saddles are all upwards of seven grand!”
He shrugs again, turns the page of his comic book, “She likes nice things.”
It’s the saddle that does it.
“You did not custom build an Hermés saddle and have it shipped to my home. You just didn’t do that. You couldn’t have done that.”
Regina sounds frantic. Her voice is placed just a hair higher than usual and it sounds like she has to constantly remind herself to breathe. Slowly. Through her nose. While counting to five.
“Why couldn’t I have done that?”
“Because, Miss Swan! That is a nine thousand dollar investment for an animal.”
“It was eighty-five, actually,” Emma’s sitting at her desk, feet up on top of the pile of paperwork she’d been thinking about completing.
“A thank you wouldn’t be too out of line at this point,” Emma feels the tension in her neck start to abate.
Regina sounds too dumbstruck to say anything rude after that and responds with a simple thank you and hangs up.
There’s a tin of peanut butter banana brownies on Emma’s desk the next morning. They’re still warm and when she opens the fridge there’s a glass bottle of milk waiting for her too.
“You actually bought my mother an Hermés saddle,” Henry sits down across from Emma’s desk after depositing a brown paper bag in front of her. “You won’t even buy me 007 Goldeneye. What the hell.”
“Dude,” Emma reaches for the bag. “One, swearing isn’t cool.”
“You do it all the time.”
“I’m not cool,” she shrugs and finishes off the last brownie before opening the paper bag. “What’s this?”
“It’s from Mom,” he sets his backpack down on the floor and unpacks his own brown bag.
It’s dinner. Pork roast with some amazing orange glaze, green beans, and rice. Henry’s got his own too. It’s not until she’s got the meal laid out on her desk that she realizes Henry is unpacking a third bag.
“It’s for Mom,” he looks at her, blank-faced and all-knowing. “She’s just finishing her meeting, said she’d be here in a few.”
“She’s eating with us? Here?” Emma’s neck tenses and she feels an oncoming headache.
“She’s trying to forgive you since you cleared out your bank account for that saddle. She’s right, you’re an idiot.” Henry stabs a piece of pork and lifts it from its rice bed. He inspects it thoroughly before bringing it to his mouth. “I mean, it worked, so, good for you. But that is 100% not what I meant when I said you should try something unconventional.”
“Shouldn’t you wait until your mom gets here to start eating?”
“I’m here, no need,” Regina breezes through the office, coat draped over her forearm, manila folders resting on top. She has her handbag in one hand and her cellphone in the other. “How was school?” she presses a kiss to the top of Henry’s head.
“Fine, I have permission slips and class information packets for you to sign after dinner,” he stops eating long enough to grin up at her. “And I finally have the full booklist for my English class.”
“Wonderful,” Regina deposits her purse and coat on David’s desk. “We’ll take a look at it.” She checks a few messages on her phone before she powers the thing off and drops it in her purse. “I see you managed to eat all of the brownies before dinner,” Regina pulls up an empty chair next to Henry.
“Peanut butter and bananas? A dream come true,” Emma pats her stomach for good measure. “Thanks.”
And then Regina smiles, and it’s small but it’s all for Emma.