It was her home… Well, it was where she lived. Calling it her home was a stretch. She lived in Boston and she had lived there for a while. Longer than she had lived anywhere in her life. It was structure and she liked it, even if the landlord was about as effective as a hose with a hole.
She didn’t think she had ever known what a ‘home’ felt like.
Even though her rent went up every year and living conditions seemed to become worse every time, forcing her to do her own repairs to make her home livable and honestly, she put up with it only because she wanted the stability of staying in a single home for longer than a year.
She knew finding a home here was unlikely but she was in a place where she could put of a good show.
She had a roof over her head. That was something she could appreciate because she knew what it was like not to have a roof over her head.
She was close to the library which offered free courses, allowing her to slowly build up knowledge in her favourite topic: social work. She went there every day and read book after book on the topic. If she had money, she would have a degree by now.
There was so much to study on the topic. Psychology and how economic and area were so closely intertwined.
Of course, her interest in the topic probably had a lot to do with her upbringing. She had spent her whole life in foster care until she was old enough to age out. She’d seen social work at its worse and workers willing to let things slide with the right ‘motivation’. It made her sick.
There was a diner across the street and they knew her name and her allergies. They made her food and had her super ready to go when she arrived at night.
She was a bounty hunter; her work was case by case but she was paid decently when she took work. She was known for her tracking skills, so she was frequently called on for jobs evolving difficult to find people who wanted to stay hidden.
Still, this was the closest thing she had ever had to a home. She had a routine. She had people who knew her name.
Her record had been cleared; expunged. She could no longer be defined or held back because of her past mistakes.
She left her apartment that morning and as she stepped outside, she passed a woman entering the building, looking very lost and quite out of place.
She was wearing an expensive-looking pantsuit and her haircut left Emma with the impression that it probably cost more than her cheap apartment and all of its furniture.
When she arrived at the dinner across the street, her dinner was waiting for her and Mrs Norris handed her her food with a warm smile.
When she made her way across the street, she saw a local punk walking towards a sweet-looking black Mercedes.
She knew the kid, Jimmy, had not won any lotteries and was willing to bet a lot that this car was not his.
“Hey, kid, beat it,” but she took out a five-dollar kill, knowing this kid, she had once been this kid, “go buy yourself a hot meal, kid.”
“Besides, an owner of a car like this wouldn’t keep cash,” Emma explained, wondering who would actually bring such an expensive car into this area. Probably the pantsuit lady.
When she went into her lobby, she noticed the woman still there and struggling with the intercom; it had been broken for weeks and the landlord hadn’t been bothered to fix it. He couldn’t afford it, despite everyone’s rent going up a hundred dollars a month.
Not that she personally cared. She didn’t get visitors.
“That your car?”
“I caught someone attempting to get inside; I’m certain he wasn’t just looking for a selfie,” Emma told her, almost fining it amusing as the posh-looking woman let out an impressive string of curse words.
“This thing isn’t working… dammit! Do you know where I can find an Emma Swan?”
Emma’s brow went up. She hadn’t expected anyone to be looking for her.
“Really? Well, I was wondering if we could talk about a very important matter,” Regina explained, “it is of a very sensitive and crucial matter.”
“Okay, sure, do you want to talk in my apartment or outside?”
“Your apartment, please.”
Emma guided the woman upstairs to her apartment, past the elevator which was closed off by tons of ‘do no pass’ tape. Not that anyone could enter the elevator. Some idiot had put what seemed like a bomb inside the elevator and it had been broken ever since. Of course, the landlord was too cheap to fix that too.
Emma’s apartment was… nice. She had a decent assortment of furniture and she was rather proud of it. She had worked hard for it.
But, she was certain this woman had chewed gum that cost more than all of it put together.
“Can I get you a drink? Coffee? Juice? I might have tea from a few months ago…”
“I think I’ll have juice,” the woman’s voice was tired but smokey.
At a closer glance, Emma couldn’t help but wonder when the last time this woman had slept was. She looked so tired and the way she held her hands practically screamed she was stressed.
“I’m Regina Mills.”
“Nice to meet you, you already know my name,” Emma said as she handed the nervous woman a glass of juice.
“I’m very sorry to trudge up old memories but I’ve exhausted all other options and I must come to you for help.”
“Start from the beginning,” Emma said.
“Yes. About ten years ago you gave a baby boy up for adoption,” she started, pausing only when Emma’s frame froze at her words. She wasn’t going to deny having had a child or having given him up but she couldn’t help but feel a sense of anguish and a moment of ‘what if’.
“I… yes. What about him?”
This caused all kinds of questions to flood her mind as she tried to figure out what was going on. But she wanted to hear Regina out.
“I adopted him. His name is Henry Mills. He’s almost ten years old,” Regina told Emma and this made her heart warm. But something felt off. Something was wrong.
“Is everything okay?”
Regina shook her head as a tear slipped down her face.
“I need help and you’re the only one who could help him. You’re our last chance.”
Emma frowned at those words and looked at the woman in front of her. “I’m very confused.”
“He’s dying. Henry is dying and you might be the only one who could save him.”