Chapter 1: An Unexpected Savior
The elegant white dress clung to my sides. I hated the sparkling fabric and wanted to rip the gown from my body. As a symbol of my oppression, it suffocated me, like my long hair. No matter how desperately I begged, my mother refused to let me cut it. Another symbol of my oppression.
Oh, how I longed to be rid of my chains! It seemed as though they would bind me forever.
Just as I whispered, "I can't live like this," the door flung open.
"What are you doing?" my mother snapped. "He's downstairs waiting on you!"
"I know," I muttered. "I'm sorry."
"Thank goodness you at least look presentable for once - and only because I had the dress made especially for you. I wish you'd dress this way all the time. As future queen, you need to have some propriety."
The underhanded insult did not surprise me. If I was beautiful, of course it was because of her. Why wouldn't it be? I obviously couldn't be beautiful on my own. But this I was used to. I was surprised she even suggested that I looked presentable. But she never let me forget what we both knew: I was worthless.
After some hesitation, for which I was scolded, I followed my mother out of my bedroom and made my way down the stairs into the enormous hall where dinner was prepared and the king was waiting.
Don't waste your touch
You won't feel anything
Or were you sent to save me?
I've thought too much
You won't find anything
Worthy of redeeming
After the meal, I returned to my room dizzy and nauseated.
"I can't do this. I can't do this."
As the panic attack set in, I felt my muscles constricting in my throat. I choked to breathe. When the sudden realization hit me, it was paralyzing. I found myself locked in a cage I could not escape, bound by the chains of my family and soon-to-be husband. I wanted out, and I knew the only escape. On the bed, I struggled even to cry, the sound stuck like peanut butter closing the air inside. Eventually, the sobbing came, shaking my chest until it hurt. When I could cry no longer, my eyes were red and my face was hot with frustration. There was only one way to free myself of my bonds.
I rushed to the balcony and hesitated as I gripped the railing. Looking down, I saw townspeople, looking the size of ants, walking and going about their days. They couldn't know my turmoil. They couldn't no my agony. My body swayed as I stepped up onto the railing, tears filling my eyes once more and blurring my vision as I looked around.
"God, help me," I cried softly.
Then I jumped.
I thought I had jumped to my death, sure that it would be my last breath, but something stopped me from hitting the ground, suspending me in the air just ten feet from the ground.
Yo he estado aqui muchas veces antes y regreso
To... break down, and cease all feeling
Burn now, what once was breathing
Reach out, and you may take my heart away
Her eyes lit up as she stared up at me, slowly using magic to lower me down until my feet touched the ground. She knew I hadn't fallen. She knew I had jumped.
"My God," she said quietly. "What the Hell are you doing?"
I could tell that she recognized me and started to panic, thinking of all the ways I could respond, all the lies I could tell.
"I was watching the townspeople and slipped," I told her.
"You're lying," she said harshly, but her voice suddenly softened as she continued. "I saw you step up on the railing. Why would you do something like that? You're betrothed to the king. You're soon to be queen. What could possibly be wrong in your life?"
"Betrothed sounds better than affianced, doesn't it?" I mumbled back, ignoring her impertinent questions.
She wasn't sure what I meant.
"Who are you?" I asked her, and waited for her response.
"Oh, God, I'm sorry!" she cried, suddenly bending down and kneeling before me as if she'd just fully comprehended who I really was. "I've been so rude. I should have addressed you as 'your majesty.'"
"No, please, don't... but what's your name?"
"Emma," she said, standing up as she gently took my hand and kissed it. "My name is Emma."
Imperfect cry, and scream in ecstasy
So what befalls the flawless?
Look what I've built, it shines so beautifully
Now watch as it destroys me
Just as soon as I opened my mouth to speak, a group of men ran towards us, yelling.
"You little bitch!" one of them screamed. "Emma Swan, get back here and let me wring your little neck!"
I looked at her with shock and confusion.
"Come on!" she cried. "We have to get out of here."
She grabbed my arm pulled me down an alleyway, running faster than I could as she dragged me along. When we finally lost them, we hid in a small corner in the back of an old, beat-up house.
"What the Hell is wrong with you?" I asked haughtily. "Why are they chasing you?"
"I stole some stuff, okay?" she snapped. "They're pretty much out for my blood. Anyway, you can punish me as you see fit. Execute me for my admission, if you want. I'd rather be punished by you than them."
"What did you steal?" I asked curiously, suddenly interested.
"I took some bread, to feed my parents. And I took some clothes from another merchant. And maybe some other food."
"Well, you're quite the thief, then, and not a very good one, at that."
The blonde scoffed and glared at me.
"I'd like to see you try it, Princess!"
"I'd rather steal to survive than marry the king," she admitted boldly. "I'm not going to punish you."
"You'll hand me over to your parents, then? I'd rather it be you."
"No. You won't be punished. I'm not going to tell a soul about this, ever," she promised, then said, "and neither are you."
"Who would I tell?"
"You parents? I don't know. Or care. You will tell no one of this."
With an audible gulp, she nodded.
"Yes, your majesty."
"Don't call me that," I hissed, but my voice softened. "Call me Regina."
As surprised as Emma looked, she nodded her head at me, but said nothing.
"I'm surprised that a commoner like yourself can do magic. Where did you learn?"
"It's a long story," Emma said shortly, looking away.
"All right. Where are you from then?"
"Does it matter?"
"No, but why did you save me?" I said, hesitating before I continued. "You should have let me die."
"What makes you so eager to end your life?"
"He's that awful?"
"No! It's not that. He's a good man."
I couldn't believe I was defending him.
"But I don't love him."
"Do you love someone else?"
"You're awfully bold, Emma Swan."
"I'm sorry," she said hurriedly. "I didn't mean to be."
"You know, I could have you hanged or beheaded for your insolence."
"Yes, your majesty. I understand, and you would be right to do so."
Emma lowered her head humbly, and I looked her over as she averted her eyes. The woman was truly beautiful, and her wavy blonde locks captivated me and held my gaze. Something about her begged me to reach out and touch her, to quiet her fear and assure her I wouldn't bring her harm, but I knew better than to be so familiar with someone I'd just met. A commoner.
"Who are you to tell me what is right for me to do? You're just a commoner."
"Yes, I know. It's not for me to say, and I apologize."
I was genuinely surprised at her manners, which were quite rare of a peasant. Her clothes were tattered, and I wondered what she'd look like in one of my elegant dresses. I'd rather her wear them than me. As I thought about it, I realized I would switch places with her, given the opportunity. Even as a thief - which I felt I could never be - I would prefer her life to my own. I yearned to escape my subjugation.
"I'm not going to hurt you," I told her, compelled to lift her chin and look back into her blue eyes.
"Why not?" she asked, clearly unsure of herself.
"Because I have no desire to do so, and because you don't deserve it."
"How do you know what I deserve?"
"Because I see through your act. I see through the rough front you put up and can tell that your heart is pure."
"And I see through yours."
Chapter 2: Touch Me Again
Y regreso aqui otra vez y comienzo
To... break down, and cease all feeling
Burn now, what once was breathing
Reach out, and you may take my heart away
"What will they do if they find you?" I asked anxiously, ignoring her comment by changing the subject.
She seemed satisfied with that, but looked reluctant to answer.
"Kill me, I imagine. They've no regard for life - especially not mine," she said, "and certainly not yours. I'm sure they'd love to get their hands on the future queen. Only God knows what they'd do to you."
"Come to my chambers. I'll hide you there. I don't want them to find you."
"I couldn't do that. I'm just a... I'm..."
"Please. Let me help you."
My eyes turned soft as I looked at her, pity striking my heart like a blade. I couldn't imagine having to watch as they beat her to death, which was something we both knew they would not hesitate to do. They were rough men, ones unknowing of forgiveness. She would see no mercy but mine, which I longed to provide after her service to my life. Part of me wished her far away, away from my attempt at ending my life, but some other part of me wanted to thank her, to tell her how much I appreciated her effort to save me.
"We'll have to move fast so they don't see us."
"I don't know the way back from here."
"This is your village. You don't know the way to your own castle?"
"Well it's not like I fraternize with peasants often!"
I watched her heart sink with what looked like embarrassment and felt shame myself. How could I have said such a thing to the one who had rescued me from death just moments before? How could I have been so insensitive?
"I'm sorry," I said, sincerity filling my eyes. "I didn't mean it that way. There's nothing wrong with being... There's nothing wrong with your social status. I was just being... I'm sorry."
With a shrug, Emma said, "It's fine. You're right. I'm just a peasant, and you shouldn't fraternize with me."
"Don't tell me what I should and shouldn't do."
"I think we're apologizing too much," I suddenly laughed, shaking my head. "Let's go. Lead the way."
At first, I thought she might take my hand, but instead, this time, she ran ahead of me. The young woman looked back every now and then to make sure I was close, and when I wasn't, she stopped to wait, but anxiously looked around for any threat to our safety. It took us over an hour to reach the castle - I was surprised at how far away we'd gotten - and we snuck in through the back.
"Upstairs," I muttered quietly, gesturing to the staircase in the rear of the great hall that held the colossal dining table.
She followed me, close behind, as quietly as possible, knowing that if we were caught, it would be the end of her life, just for associating me. I couldn't even imagine my own punishment. I thought of my mother's wrath as I entered my bedchambers and shuddered.
"We should get you out of those clothes," I told her, motioning to my walk-in closet. "Go ahead in."
Emma shook her head, refusing my offer, so I moved behind her and gave her back a shove towards the room.
"Go," I demanded, causing her to stumble forwards.
As she looked around the room, I could tell she was filled with wonder and shock as she took in the massive amount of elegant clothing.
"I couldn't possibly wear any of this. If I was seen..."
"Some of my riding clothes will suit you. They're clean, they'll fit, and they won't be as conspicuous. Plus, they'll accentuate your..."
At that, I trailed off and blushed as she looked at me.
"Okay," she mumbled, stepping towards the back of the closet where the riding gear was.
My riding clothes were more simple, more plain, but I knew it would make her look stunning. But why did I care? She did look fine in the clothes she was wearing, but they were loose and the pants and shirt hung down too far on her body. Her breasts were...
I stopped myself and turned around to face the bedroom, giving her privacy to change into the clothes she decided on. When she called for me to turn around, I saw right away why I had wanted her to change.
"You look..." I started, but couldn't finish, my gut wrenching and shoving my heart into my throat.
Trying again, I repeated the words, but got stuck again as I watched her turn red.
"It looks ridiculous, doesn't it? I told you it would. I look ridiculous."
"No!" I cried. "You look... It suits you. It's fantastic. Your muscles..."
Oh, God, I was thinking. Why had I said that? I suppose I knew why - because it was true. Her muscles. They were larger than I'd expected, and the way the shirt gripped her figure accentuated their size. I could tell she was used to physical labor. Her body was chiseled like a Roman god.
"I look ridiculous. I'm taking it off."
As she turned to reenter the closet, I stopped her by saying, "No, you don't. You look great. Please don't take it off."
Her hesitation pulled my lips into a smile.
"Please," I repeated, moving over to her. I gently pulled out the hem of her shirt, looking her up and down once more. "You look fantastic."
I watched the blush rise to her cheeks and suddenly found myself feeling proud of my choice to urge her into the new outfit. It was perfect, and, if I'm being honest, I have to confess that I couldn't stop staring. Unfortunately for me, she noticed.
"What?" she asked anxiously, wringing her hands. "Do I look that stupid?"
"Emma," I sighed. "I said you look fantastic."
"You're just being kind."
"Well, I'm not a very kind person, so you should doubt that very highly."
"Maybe I'm just hesitant to think that what you said is the truth. It's not that I don't trust you. You seem very sincere."
"I am sincere," I told her. "I meant what I said. You look beautiful."
"Beautiful?" she echoed, gaping at me, but didn't say anything else.
"Beautiful," I repeated, again making her blush. "Sit on the bed with me."
"That's a command, Miss Swan."
I had to swallow a laugh and put on my most serious face until she cautiously sat beside me on the furthest end of the bed.
"Come here," I said, motioning her closer.
She obeyed, and I gazed into the blue orbs that looked back at me.
Nervous to say so, I told her, "You have beautiful eyes."
Of course, Emma looked surprised at my admission. I liked the way she looked confused and unsure of herself. I was happy to realize it wasn't me that she doubted, but herself. She forced herself to trust me, and each time she allowed me to compliment her, it felt like a victory. Her beauty astonished me, and all I wanted was to express my sentiment.
"Believe me," I urged her, but she started to look scared. "Don't be afraid of me. I'm not going to hurt you. I wasn't serious earlier, when I was warning you about your words. You can be informal with me. Tell me what you're really thinking. You won't be chastened." When she paused and looked away, I pressed, "Tell me."
"I'm thinking that you're beautiful."
"My mother picked out the dress," I informed her. "I hate it. I want nothing to do with her ornate dresses, fancy jewelry, and lavish adornments."
"You make it sound as though you hate her, m'lady. And it's not the dress that makes you beautiful."
"Don't call me that!" I retorted. "And... And I do."
Shame filled me like a black bouquet in a vase. She was my mother. I knew I should love her, but there was no room in my heart for love. It was too filled to the brim with hatred for myself, and for her. I didn't hate the king - it was not his fault that I did not love him - but I was bitter about the arrangement my mother had made. Luckily, Emma sensed that I was uncomfortable with the subject and was gracious enough to be silent until I changed the topic of the conversation.
"You think I'm beautiful?"
"Of course I do. Look at you! You're fucking gorgeous," she told me. "Oh, shit... I mean... Crap... I mean... I'm sorry, for my language, your majesty. It just came out."
"It's fine," I assured her. "I curse when I'm alone as well."
"I'm glad I'm not the only one who talks to themselves," the woman laughed, leaning back on the bed and propping herself up by her hands, which were positioned behind her.
Her fingers brushed mine and distracted me from her teasing, but she jerked her hand away instantly. I was unable to reply with my own comeback as I turned and stared at her, still feeling the phantom touch of her hand on mine.
"Sorry," she mumbled quickly.
With the same speed, I raised my finger to her lips to silence her.
Chapter 3: Don't Be Sorry
"Don't be sorry," I told her. "You won't be executed for touching me."
"No?" she said with uncertainty in her voice.
"No," I said softly, then hesitated. "Will you do it again?"
Shock showed on her face as she lifted her hand off the bed.
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure. Please."
She touched her hand to mine, and I felt my inner turmoil melt away as I turned my hand to grip hers.
"You care more about my life than anyone else ever has," I confessed, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. "That's invaluable to me."
"Of course I care. You almost died." When I shrugged, she begged, "Please don't kill yourself."
"I have no other choice."
"Of course you do. You could give in to your mothers wishes and marry the king and be miserable. Or you could run away and never look back, settling for the life of a commoner like me."
"You think I should run away?"
"I think you should do what makes you happiest. I don't think you'll be happy as a peasant, but it sounds like you'll be miserable as a queen."
"I would be. You're right. But running away... She'd find me, Emma. She'll always find me."
The woman bit her lip and looked back at me, and my heart skipped a beat. It felt like a hiccup bursting through my chest.
"You don't know that."
"Yes, I do. She's... My mother uses dark magic. I'll never be able to get away from her. She owns me. She owns everything I am, even my soul."
"She doesn't own your soul, or your life, m'lady. Only you can own those."
"I'm not sure that's true."
"Your soul is your own, and today you proved your life is your own as well. You almost took it."
"I would have, if it hadn't been for you. And stop calling me that."
"Are you angry with me?"
"A little," I admitted. "I just want this all to be over."
"Run away with me."
"What? Isn't that a bit fast?"
"Well, it's not like you have much time," she pointed out.
I had to admit, she was right. The wedding was just days away, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Maybe her plan was my best option.
"How will I keep her from finding me?"
"We'll cut your hair. Dress you as a peasant."
"You'll look beautiful no matter what you do with your hair... Regina."
"You're so full of it."
"I am not!" she cried, standing up and facing me. "It's true."
Break down, and cease all feeling
Burn now, what once was breathing
Reach out, and you may take my heart away
I left it all behind, and never said goodbye
Looking around the room, filled with anxiety, I weighed my options. If I left, my mother would find me, and my punishment would be unimaginable, and painful. I'd be a peasant for the rest of my life, or at least until they both passed away and I could reclaim the throne. That was an interesting option. I could reclaim the throne. Once they were dead, I would be free, but there were more reasons to stay. I barely knew Emma. Who was to say she wouldn't betray me to my guards for the reward my mother was sure to offer? Who was to say she wouldn't kill me in my sleep?
A reason to go was that I was desperate to try almost anything to get away from my life of royalty. On the other hand, Emma already treated me like royalty, more than anyone else ever had. All 'royalty' had meant before had been responsibility, excruciating obligations, and suppressing my hopes, dreams, and personality in order to please my mother. The possibility of escape was nearly intoxicating. Emma was also a beautiful woman - it seemed both inside and out. And what of love? Was it what I was feeling for Emma? Was love at first sight even possible? Even if it was just infatuation, it was something I felt compelled to explore. Maybe, I thought, I could be happy with her. She seemed to understand me - certainly better than anyone else ever had.
"Regina?" she asked, snapping me out of my thoughts and back into reality.
"You're you're just scared."
"I am scared."
"Come with me. You could be happy..."
Sucking in a breath, hoping courage would come with it, I challenged, "If you kiss me, I will."
"W-What?" she stammered.
"If you kiss me, I'll run away with you."
I could taste the sincerity of the request. As soon as she started to move away from me, I leaned in to keep her lips on mine. She broke away, taking a quick gulp of air, then moved back in, deepening the kiss.
"Pack now before your mother finds us," she breathed against my lips.
Out of breath, I nodded my head and jumped up, packing a bag as quickly as possible. The knock on the door sent lightning through my heart.
"Oh, shit," I whispered, grabbing Emma's arm and throwing her and the bag I had packed into the closet. "Stay here!"
I slammed the door shut and turned around as my mother appeared in the room.
"Mother!" I exclaimed, fear gripping me. "What's going on?"
"Dinner went well," she mused, pacing around my room as though she expected to find contraband items.
"Yes," I mumbled. "It went well."
"I just wanted to stop in and see what you were doing."
"I was about to change into my nightgown for bed. I'm exceedingly tired."
"Yes, you did seem a bit off at supper."
"I'm fine, Mother. Just tired."
"All right, dear. Just remember that you're having lunch with the king tomorrow."
My head lowered as she exited the room, and once she was gone, I felt my heart palpitating. I threw open the closet door and threw my arms around Emma, without thinking.
"Emma," I cried. "I'm terrified."
"I know, honey," she said. "I know."
Honey? My heart refused to stop racing, and my arms refused to break the embrace. Somehow, her words calmed me. Though my heart wouldn't settle, throbbing from fear, my thoughts became tranquil - except for the thought of the way she'd addressed me as 'honey.'
"Get me out of here."
Emma grabbed my hand and took my bag from me, sneaking into the hallway in silence. On the edge of panic but still keeping my cool, I followed her down the corridor. When we heard my mother's voice around the corner, we both froze and pressed out backs against the wall, as if that would make us invisible. But the sound passed, and we escaped - just barely - out the rear entrance.
"Oh, God," I breathed, as we huddled together in the corner of an alley in the middle of town.
"It's okay. It's all right. We're safe, for now. I have to go home to get my things, though. Given that my place is much smaller than your palace, this is going to be even more difficult. You'll have to hide behind the house until I come get you. Can you do that?"
Weakly, I nodded, but inside, I was scared to be alone.
By the time we got there, it was the middle of the night, and she assured me her parents would be sleeping, but I still stood petrified as she snuck into the house. When she reappeared, she was calm and composed.
"How are you not having a heart attack?" I whispered, grabbing her hand and pulling her all the way around the corner to the back of the house where I was standing.
"I'm okay, Regina. Really. We're okay. Are you ready to go?"
I nodded and we left the house, hands entwined. All I could think was, How is this happening? Why does she care so much? But I had to believe she truly cared enough to protect me. I had no other choice; I'd committed to the escape plan, and now I was bound to her in our endeavor.
"Why are you leaving your family?" I asked as we turned a corner.
"Because they're overbearing, too. They think they can control me, and control who I love. When I told them I was attracted to women, they told me that if I was ever in a relationship with a woman, they would kick me out and never speak to me again."
"Sounds like my mom..."
"Yeah, I know," she said. "I guess that's why I understand. I've been through it. At least I'm not betrothed, though. I would have run away already if they'd done that to me."
A sigh escaped my lips as I squeezed her hand and felt her squeeze back.
"We're gonna be okay," she promised me.
And somehow, I believed her.