Day 4: Regina meets the baby of DarkOQ for the first time. (#27)
When she heard what happened, the world fell out from under her feet. She cried for days, weeks, inconsolably locked in her room where not even Henry returning from his travels could persuade her out of. How could the world be so damn cruel?
And cruelty never sleeps, just leaves a wake of devastation it’s in path and walks forward without even a second glance to those it torments behind. It’s the story of her life really. Being thrown heartbreak after heartbreak and having to force her feet to get up and move forward one step at a time.
She thought she was done with all that after Robin died nearly six years ago, but life is ruthless and unkind still. And now she finds herself frantically nervous at the light knock against her door that echoes out like thunder.
This was not how she anticipate this situation happening. There should have been smiles, and possibly a few happy tears, but not this. Never this. But what was she going to do? Say no? That was just not possible. It wasn’t part of her DNA to do something that horrible as to turn her back away and run.
Fumbling with her hair that curls just below her shoulders, a shaky breath expels with every click of her heels against the wood floors that bring her closer to the white door. It’s another knock that has her hand flying to the knob, but not quite turning it, fear running rampant in her heart as to what is on the other side, or rather whom.
“Perhaps she’s at Granny’s.” A low muffled voice whispers sadly from the other side. And it would be so easy to just let them walk away. But that’s not her. She will not hide from this. Swallowing the bile in her throat and begging the high heavens to keep her tears at bay she twists the golden handle, the chill of winter blowing into her quiet mansion as two people turn slowly back around to face her.
It’s all blue eyes, long dark chocolate hair, deep set dimples, and a small spattering of freckles on pink cheeks. She’s beautiful. This little girl that stares up at her in shocked silence, clinging to the hand of the strange man tighter as her little feet shuffle her even smaller body behind his legs. She is absolutely stunning. Even as she hides herself away.
Perhaps Regina isn’t the only one absolutely terrified of meeting the other. But children are her kryptonite. More than that, children who have big alligator tears that bloom against thick lashes and fall onto rose tinted cheeks are her weakness. It’s the mother in her. The demanding need to comfort and soothe the fears away.
Kneeling down even though her pants soak in the light spattering of snow on the porch, she folds her hands in her lap, as small as she can make herself, she sits back on her feet and smiles at the curious sapphire blue eyes that watch her from behind khaki pants.
“Hello, Ravenna. My name is Regina.”
The little girl’s curls hide her face as she shrinks away, and it makes Regina’s heart clench tight. God, she looks so much like them. Almost to a point where it aches in Regina’s very soul. This could have been her life, had her thief not gotten in her way one last time. They could have had this.
Regina swallows against the spear in her chest, “I know this is all very scary, but I promise you, I won’t hurt you.” She extends her palm out openly to the small child who peers widely from her curtain of hair.
The man beside her kneels down as well, kisses her cheek and pats her bum gently, “It’s okay little one, go say hi.”
They exchange a look, this stranger and the little girl, a quick terrified shake of dark curls and watery eyes before a puff of dark green magic blooms out of her hands. For a moment she freezes, wildly staring at Regina to see if she noticed what just happened, even as she stuffs her little hands quickly behind her, looking afraid at the magical outburst, or perhaps at Regina’s reaction to it. Clearly she’s tapped into her abilities quite young. Six years old if Regina remembers correctly. In fact, this little princess’s birthday is only two months away.
She will have to make sure it’s special.
“I have magic too.” Regina twiddles her fingers, letting lavender pops of fireworks bloom into the sky. “See.” She smiles, as bright blue eyes follow the spectacle in absolute wonder. For a second she wishes she would have set a barrier around her clothes, lest she freeze herself to death in the cold right now, but this is more important. Easing the rampant nerves of a tiny girl who has no idea who she is.
“Want to see something else?”
The little brunette nods, stepping out a touch closer towards Regina curiously. A flurry of bubbles billow about from her hand, popping gently above the child’s head, letting a sparkling rainstorm fall down on top of her curls. It makes her giggle. A small, beautiful sound that has Regina nearly faltering in the mask of strength she desperately is trying to hold up.
She lets another batch go, watches with a beaming smile through tears as the girl reaches up to poke at the spheres, her dimples bursting through as she laughs and reaches for another. She really does look so much like them.
“Can you show me something with your magic now?”
Blue eyes meet brown, and Regina holds her breath. She neither shifts forward or back as Ravenna stills on the spot, a tiny crease in her brow as the internal debate rages on behind her bright sapphire eyes. She can see it clear as day. The replication of herself in this little girl, the way her lips purse a touch tighter, nose scrunches up defensively, but it’s her eyes that give her away.
“You don’t have to be scared.” She smiles gently.
The little girl steps forward tentatively, step by step, her eyes widening with each and she reaches her tiny chubby pink hand to softly touch Regina’s fingertips. It tingles and warms instantly as magic floods into her, a memory that swirls in a green forest fog, and suddenly that’s exactly where she is.
In the forest, watching through the eyes of this little girl, who is tucked into her mother’s arms as she reads a bedtime story, low and soft. A hand brushing through her curls gently, the feeling of a steady heartbeat against her back as a page turns. She smells like the lavender fields they played in, of rich warm sunshine and vanilla cake baked earlier today. Her skin is soft under the light creme dress they both match in. Her mother is beautiful, and she hopes one day she will be just like her.
Cuddling in tighter, her heart is happy, comfortable, and completely enthralled in the way her mother’s voice pitches and hums out the words she can’t yet read. But the book is alive with tiny characters, a heroic prince in the midst of saving the princess from a terrible dragon who breathes a roar of miniscule fire. It’s her favorite part of the story.
A door cracks open.
He walks in with a smile, bends down, runs his fingers over her cheek affectionately, grins a “Hello, my little love,” and presses a kiss to her forehead. She can feel the heat of the contact, the way his large hand cups the back of her head, she is so small and he so big. He snuggles her tight for a moment, letting the smell of pine trees and fresh river water rush over her, he waits a beat, tips his stubbly chin down and smiles mischievously. She knows what he is about to do, bites down on her lip in anticipation and his hands move and she shrieks when he scoops her up high into the sky with a happy laugh, twirling them both about before falling back onto the bed.
She is breathless from giggling.
She feels loved, and safe, snuggling into her mother’s side, toying with a lock of dark chocolate curls, her father wrapping a hand around her tummy, securing her tight to them both, immediately finding warmth between them.
“What are we reading tonight, my girl?”
And this is how her heart usually finds calm. Where the monsters can’t get her, and the scary people dare not try. Her parents protect her and she is safe with them. Always.
The memory fades and all Regina can see is the tears swelling on the thick lashes of this little girl who stares up at her soul shatteringly sadly. “Ravenna. I’m so sorry.”
A hand reaches to touch Regina’s cheek, uncertainty in every flicker of her blue eyes as she takes in the features she knows far too well, ones that were of another woman who was taken away from her. Her hair isn’t long like her mother’s, but the color of chestnuts is the same. And she doesn’t smell like lavender and vanilla, but of roses and chocolate. It’s different, not really what she wants, but it’s similar. Her eyes are identical though, big, brown, and beautiful. But these eyes look at her differently.
She is sad, and there is sadness behind that sadness even. But everything else is the same and it makes the tiny heart in her chest ache.
“You look just like my mommy did.”
Regina sighs, bites back the burning of tears and reaches out to tuck a curl behind Ravenna’s little ears, taking a moment to marvel at it’s length and softness. She does look so much like her mother, this tiny replica of a woman, now resting somewhere better as they say, alongside her soulmate, and Regina’s as well.
All three of them gone, and still she remains here. Did she mention how cruel life could be?
Ravenna sniffs hard, and Regina tilts her chin up to catch her eyes. “You know what though?” The little girl shakes her head, curls bouncing about her tiny shoulders encased in a soft green cloak.
“So do you.” She smiles, letting her thumb trace along the swells of her niece’s freckled cheeks, “But your eyes, they are all your daddy’s.”
A tiny lip trembles. Regina’s does at the same time.
It’s cold outside, but the frozen concrete that has her knees soaked and aching barely registers when the little girl takes the last step and melts her body into Regina’s arms, burrowing herself in as close as she can. She hugs her fiercely tight, combing through long chestnut curls, and swaying them gently from side to side. She feels it first, the chill of fingertips that dig their way underneath her shirt, search for a moment before steadying on top of her heart.
Ravenna sighs and sinks into it. It feels like mommy’s heartbeat. Strong, steady and safe.
“I miss them.”
“Me too. But I promise, I’ll take care of you okay?”
Regina smiles, and inhales a much needed breath of relief as she scoops up her niece, and nods to the man who still stands on her front walkway. He just smiles and turns to walk down the pathway.
They had talked about it years ago, what would happen to their daughter, should anything unfortunate happen to them. They asked, and she promised.