Author's note: Just something new I thought of while I should've been paying attention in class today.
There were about a thousand other unpleasant things that Anna Carter would rather do than what she was forced to do day in and day out. Step in a tub full of spiders, eat a spoonful of sludge, anything. Anything other than force this little girl into what she anticipated would be yet another less than stellar living situation.
She glanced in the rearview mirror, catching a glimpse of the little girl sitting in the back seat, staring morosely at the nondescript road passing by.
"Hey, we're almost there."
The little girl turned her head slightly to catch her eye before turning back to the road.
Anna sighed as she continued to drive down the winding road before her. She hated her job with a strong passion. Still remembering her hopefulness the day she received her degree in social work, she couldn't seem to recall what had possessed her to want to pursue such an unpleasant job. Well, ok, she could. She thought she'd have the chance to help people in need. She just never imagined her job would widely consist of chauffeuring children to homes where they'd be neglected and abused. Sometimes the children would end up in a good one, with a loving family but more often than not that was not the case.
Five year old Emma Swan was no exception. As young as she was, she had been in more than her fair share of bad homes, much more than any child her age should. Anna had first encountered Emma when the little girl, then three, had appeared in her office after having been hastily dropped off by her adoptive parents. She could still recall the wide, hurt eyes as Emma slowly realized that her parents were not coming back.
And since then, the poor little girl had been shuttled from home to home. Some were halfway decent, bringing Anna hope that maybe Emma would finally have the family she deserved. But she'd inevitably be brought back as people learned how much work it was to take care of a little girl. The overwhelming majority of the foster homes Emma landed in were bad. Awful, horrible, nasty. Anna always tried her best to filter out the worst ones but often foster families disguised their abusive tendencies on paper.
It was so unfair it brought tears to her eyes every time she thought about it. She watched the happy little girl slowly turn into the closed off, depressed one that currently sat in her backseat.
Anna surreptitiously crossed her fingers as they crossed the town line into Storybrooke. Maybe, just maybe, this would turn out to the home little Emma so desperately deserved.
Regina Mills reached up and touched her ever perfect black hair. Straightened her blouse and flattened her skirt before realizing what she was doing.
I shouldn't care about what a little kid thinks of me. She thought with a slight snort of derision. But there was no denying it. She was nervous. And rightfully so, if her last interaction with a kid meant anything.
Fostering a kid. She had no idea what she was thinking. She couldn't take care of a kid! Look at how well things had went last time. With her luck something would go wrong again. Why had she ever thought to listen to the cricket's advice again? Sure, he had a psychology degree, but it had been given to him through the curse. As in, it wasn't real!
Maybe she should just call them and tell them she'd changed her mind. Yes, she'd do that. But just as she was reaching for the phone she heard the telltale sound of footsteps followed by a quick rap on the door.
Here goes nothing. With a deep breath to steel herself, Regina plastered what she hoped was a welcoming smile, she swung open the door to reveal a woman, clearly the social worker, with red hair, holding the hand of a tiny blonde girl, who was hiding around the social worker's legs. "Hi."
Regina nodded. "That's me." She flashed the woman her practiced politician smile and held out her hand for her to shake, hoping to convey through her firm grip that she was nothing more than a lonely mayor who wanted a child. Of course, there was no way this woman knew the truth about who she was.
If she did, she'd probably run far, far away with the little girl.
"Come in, please." She stepped aside, allowing the social worker and the girl to walk in, before closing the door. They stood in the foyer, the social worker looking around the expansive room while the little girl stared at the ground, her hand clutching a white knit blanket.
Regina knelt down next to the girl. "You must be Emma."
Emma nodded without looking up.
"She's shy." The social worker explained.
"Well there's nothing to be afraid of." Regina said reassuringly. "I don't bite. I promise."
Emma offered a small smile before looking back down at her scuffed sneakers. "Okay."
The social worker looked down at her clipboard. "So if your file is correct there is no Mr. Mills, right?"
"Nope. That won't be a problem, will it?"
"Not at all. Ok, so before I leave I just need you to fill out a few forms."
"Sure." Regina led them into the kitchen, where she sat down at the table to fill out the forms, but not before offering Emma some juice. The little girl's eyes grew wide at the sheer number of options of juice boxes Regina had in her fridge. She hadn't known what type to get so she'd just gotten them all.
Once the forms were filled out, Regina took Emma's suitcase, trying to hide her surprise at how light it was, up the curved stairs into the room she'd prepared.
"This will be your room." She pushed open a door to reveal a bedroom, the walls covered with purple wallpaper and a bed with a matching duvet. While shopping for bedding, she'd thrown a couple of stuffed animals into the cart, thinking that the little girl might like them. Regina remembered how much she'd loved her stuffed animals as a child, before Cora had thrown them away, saying that princesses did not play with toys.
Emma's eyes were wide as she took in the room, silently sucking away at her thumb. There was a white bookcase across from the bed and a large dresser that Regina silently thought her little suitcase would never be able to fill up. "T-this is all for me?"
"Yep. I hope you're ok with purple."
Emma took her thumb out of her mouth. "It's my favorite color."
"Me too." Regina beamed. "I'm glad you like it."
"Well," the social worker interrupted. "I see that everything's in order so I should probably be going now."
Suddenly, Emma was a bundle of nerves as she followed the woman down the stairs. "Do you really have to go?"
"Yes." She patted Emma on the head. "Everything's going to be fine. I promise. Mayor Mills seems to be a very nice woman. And you have my number. If anything goes wrong I promise I'll be here right away."
With a quick smile at Regina, the woman was gone. Regina watched her drive away, a jolt of fear darted through her as she took in the little girl staring back at her.
All right. You can do this. "So." Regina approached Emma. "What do you want to do first? Do you want to unpack? Or are you hungry? It's up to you. I have the rest of the week off so we can whatever you like."
"I can do whatever I want?" Emma asked shyly.
Regina blinked. Why would she even ask that? "Of course. So what will it be?"
"Umm...I guess I'm a little hungry."
"Okay, well, let's go to the diner then." She grabbed her coat and keys. There was a tug on her hand, and when she looked down she was surprised to see that Emma had taken her hand, her tiny one practically disappearing in Regina's bigger one.
As they walked out the door, Regina locking it behind her, she was struck at how natural it felt to have the little girl clutching her hand. Maybe this wasn't such a bad idea after all.
Author's note: SO what did you think? Any thoughts before you go?