Soft light leaked from underneath the wooden door, flooding over Leslie's dirty feet. Her hand stayed hesitant above the crystal doorknob, her heart pounding rapidly against her chest. She wasn't sure whether or not to enter the room; the doctor's orders to stay out till further notice replayed in her mind. But his urgent shouts and her sister's cries persuaded her to run to her aid. She knew nothing about childbirth, but she didn't want to stand around while her younger sister suffered in there.
Realizing she would only be a disturbance, Leslie shuffled back to the wooden table, her wool skirt tugging at her legs. Her head felt as if it weighed ten pounds more, and she could barely keep the tears from leaking from her eyes. Her sister had been so weak when Leslie found her at her doorstep, and even the doctors couldn't be sure if the mother or child would survive. It was stupid thing her sister had done, trekking on a long, dangerous journey while carrying her second child. Now she was going to pay the price.
Leslie remained at the table for a few more moments, but as soon as she heard the screams die down, to be replaced by a faint, childish cry, she sprang from the chair and dashed into the bedroom.
The doctor and his assistants backed away from the bed, giving Leslie full view of her sister.
Merriam was so frail, Leslie couldn't be sure if she was still alive or not. But the faint rise and fall of her chest and tiny glow in her eyes sparked a little hope in Leslie that she might live. Taking a couple of paces closer, she bent over her sister, noticing for the first time the tiny child cradled in her arms.
"It's a girl." One of the doctor's assistants said, tears brimming her aqua eyes.
Leslie breathed out deeply, stroking her new niece with a gentle hand. "She's beautiful."
Merriam gazed at her, her voice barely audible as she announced, "Her name is Evangeline."
Leslie smiled at the name, noting that it fit the child perfectly.
The doctor stepped forward, reaching down to take Evangeline from her mother, who was almost too weak to continue holding her. Leslie noted with a broken heart that Merriam's attempts to breathe were faltering, as if every breathe took a little more off her life.
She twisted around to face the doctor, who solemnly said, "I'm sorry, but we did everything we could to save her. Even magic won't help her now."
All the happiness of Evangeline's birth drowned out of Leslie. Warm tears pooled into her eyes as she turned back around and prepared herself to say goodbye.
The doctors shuffled out of the room, talking in hushed voices. Once the door had closed behind them, the tears flowed freely from Leslie's eyes.
"You never should have made that journey!" She cried, gripping Merriam's cold, fragile hand in her strong, warm ones. "You shouldn't have left him!"
Merriam smiled weakly and shook her head, refusing to listen to her sister's words. "He was a terrible husband. I couldn't be with a man like him."
Leslie exhaled, a sob caught in her throat. "He was a good man! He didn't deserve to have you leave him!" She closed her eyes, muttering, "Just like I don't deserve to have you leave me." She gulped, blinking rapidly to keep the water from blinding her vision.
"I should have taken our son with me." Merriam seemed to be talking to herself now, her gray eyes cast on something Leslie couldn't see. "I never should have left him there with that coward." Slightly turning her head, gazed at Leslie with distant eyes. "Promise me something."
"Anything!" Leslie exclaimed, shifting a lose strand of dark hair out of her sister's face.
"Promise me you will take care of Evangeline for me. Raise her as your own." Merriam's voice was no more than a whisper, but to Leslie it was sentence she knew she would stay true to till the day she died. She open her mouth to confirm that she would keep the promise, but Merriam's last, dying words interrupted her. "Promise me that you will never let her know that Rumplestilskin is her father."