Two Households Of Dignity

By Schroederplayspiano

Chapter 7: No Need To Pray, No Need To Speak

Everyone in town knew it was their savior's birthday within the hour. During the morning, I hear five different locations where her party was going to take place that very night.

Father has no big reaction to the news. He insists on working in his woodshop all day. His avoidance of the issue, not pressing me for details gave me new appreciation for him. He knows without asking that I don't want to talk about it.

By noon, formal invitations are hand delivered by Snow White. She walks uncomfortably to our garage to where Father, Jiminy, and myself are talking while Father works. Before she opens her mouth I can tell she had reservations about coming to visit.

I stand up from my stool when I see her. It's clear she came only for me. Anyone in watching the garage could tell there is bad blood between Snow White, Jiminy, and Father. No one says anything for a moment. I attempt to make the situation easier by meeting her at the edge of the garage.

"Hello," she tries to smile warmly.

"Hello."

We walk out of hearing distance from the garage. There's an awkward pause after we stand a casual distance apart from each other.

"So," she fumbles around in her purse to find something. "I came here to ask you if you would please come to Emma's birthday party tonight." Snow White puts an invitation into my hand.

I look down at the invitation and then back at her. "Are you sure I should come? I don't want to cause a problem."

"I'm pretty sure my family has you to thank for informing us today is her birthday." She has a knowing look in her eyes that makes me want to shrink a thousand times smaller. "I wouldn't have wanted to miss this day for the world."

I shrug. "That doesn't mean I should be there. I know your family is pretty upset at me." I pause. "And they have every right to be."

Snow White is torn as to what to say. I can tell she was hoping the topic wouldn't come up.

"I know there's a lot of water under that bridge. Working things out or hearing explanations is not productive right now. I'm not here to pick fights or make amends."

"Then, why are you here?"

"I'm here for my daughter," Snow White says with pride. "It's her birthday – not yours or mine." She takes a deep breath and speaks quickly. "I mean this whole party is more for us than for her. I don't like to say that, but it's true. It's going to be filled with our friends, not hers. It's really important Emma has her good friend at the party."

Her. Good. Friend.

"Plus," she continues talking quickly. "There'll be some many people there, he won't even notice you."

He, meaning her husband and Emma's father, the man who will never accept me.

She still senses my hesitation, so she adds "Emma wants you there."

I look at her and know Emma didn't say anything. Her mother just knew.

"Okay." I finally whisper.

Snow While's closed lips form a wide smile. She puts the invitation back into my hand. "Thank you," she says. She looks at me with approval and gratitude before leaving silently.

"What did she want?" Father asks me when I reenter the garage. "Is everything okay?"

The concern in his voice for makes me wonder how I survived the last 29 years without him.

"Yeah," I reassure him. "She just wanted to invite me to Emma's party tonight."

"Really?" Jiminy asks with a smile, reaching for the invitation. "That's great!"

Father stops his work so he can focus on me. "Are you going to go?"

"She seemed pretty insistent I go, but," I take a deep breath. "I won't go if you don't want me to."

Father breaks into a smile. "No. Why wouldn't I want you to go?"

"You seem worried."

"No," he lies. "You should go. I want you to go."

"It's formal dress," Jiminy reads from the invitation.

Great.

I try to hide my disappointment at the information. Father and Jiminy laugh.

"I have a suit you can borrow, Pinocchio," Father offers.

"You should have fun," Jiminy hands back the invitation. "I'm a little jealous."

I give him an exasperation look. He laughs again.

"This is perfect, actually," Father tells us.

"Why?" I furrow my eyebrows, confused. "What are you talking about?"

"I'm almost finished," he announces with delight.

"With what?" Jiminy and I ask together.

Father motions behind his back, "With Emma's present."

Excitement fuels within me as I walk towards Father's work desk. My heart stops when I see what he's made.

In the center of the carved cuckoo clock, is the exact replica of Snow White's castle that my father must have carved from memory. Each hour a wooden swan comes out of the highest tower, spreading it wings over the castle, protecting it from harm. I look to the bottom of his creation to find a wooden puppet chasing a young girl trying to catch her in his arms, but never can.

"Wow," is all I can say.

"Do you like it, Pinocchio?" Father asks, his voice itching for approval.

"It's incredible," I say, still starring at it, watching the puppet and the girl run around the castle in circles. I turn back to Father. "I absolutely love it."

"I'm so glad," He says with pride.

"Emma will love it," I tell him and his grin widens.

"You think?"

"I know," I say with confidence.

"I still have some paint touches here and there." He points to some spots on the clock that seem just fine to me. "What time is the party?"

"Seven," Jiminy informs us.

"Oh, good." Father bends down to examine a corner of the castle. "That's just enough time to finish painting and let it dry."

"You know it's perfect already, right?"

My father's eyes appear above the castle, love and laughter are in them. "Thank you," he says sincerely.

"Well," Jiminy hands the invitation back to me. "At least now you don't have to worry about a present."

I turn to Jiminy, take the invitation, and can't help saying, "No, there's just a thousand other things to worry about."

"You'll be fine, Pinocchio," Jiminy reassures me.

I look down at the invitation.

Apparently the party is at City Hall. Somehow, Emma and her family have taken over it from Regina. I wonder how, but then I'm glad I wasn't included in that fight. I realize her party is also a way to celebrate the curse breaking; the townspeople haven't had a formal gathering together yet.

It is only after my realization when I feel absolutely horrible Father and Jiminy were not invited.

I look over at them, chatting up a storm as Father finishes Emma's gift. They are perfectly happy if they have each other.

Even though the party starts at seven, I leave Father's house at eight. Dressed in his suit with Emma's present under my arm, I walk towards City Hall. At home, parties or balls started right on time, if not early. For that reason, I'm glad to be late. It will be easier to hide if there are more people there.

Sure enough, the whole building is buzzing when I arrive. Lights are everywhere; party lights, spotlights, and decorative lights are hanging inside and outside the building. Music rattles the windows and food is lures any passers-by inside.

I hardly make it pass the doorway, put Emma's present on a table, when I feel strong hands on my forearms.

"Where have you been?" An angry voice demands.

I can't see her face due to the crowd of people still entering, but know her voice. "Emma?"

"You're late."

"Gee, sorry," I smile and start my mocking voice. "I didn't realize you needed protecting at your own birthday party."

"This isn't about protecting." Emma drags me further down the building, to a hidden corner where she thinks we can hide. "I thought we agreed upon that yesterday."

The moonlight shines through the window and I can see her clearly for the first time.

She looks incredible.

Her ankle length purple dress clings to every curve of her body. Her hair is done up in a braided bun surrounded by a diamond tiara. She is wearing a little makeup, just enough to highlight her facial features. He neckline is bare; a diamond bracelet encircles her left wrist.

"What is it about, then?" I barely can offer my retort. I can't stop memorizing her.

"I don't know," she says quickly. "How I can't stand balls."

"Well, you're not going to make a good princess then."

Her eyes pop out at me. "Not helping."

"Okay, well," I start, trying not to stumble over my words as I stare at her, searching for way to help her. "You're absolutely beautiful," I whisper.

She meets my eyes and we're back where we were last night, asking each other silent questions we wouldn't dare to speak.

She moves closer to me. "Thank you," she whispers softly.

"Do you want to dance?" The words roll out of me before I know what I'm saying.

"No," she says automatically. "I want to hide."

I smile. "Good plan at your own birthday party."

"It's working now, isn't it?" She says smugly.

"Yeah, but," I turn so she can see how the rooms are filling with people. "Someone is going to find you eventually." I pause, wondering if I should add the obvious. "Plus it's your birthday, you are expected to be at least seen."

"Good point," she says, rushing for another plan. "Want to dance?"

I roll my eyes at her.

"Maybe I can hide in the crowd." She gives a feeble explanation.

"Not with those diamonds."

She smiles and reaches for my hand. I follow.

Emma slowly leads me inside the dancing crowd. Part of me thinks dancing together is a bad idea. The more people who see us together, the more trouble we could cause.

The instrumental music turns to a slower tune. I place my free hand on the small of Emma's back, and we dance only the steps we know. I try to remember steps Father taught me when I was a boy, and then wonder how Emma knows any of these fairytale land steps.

"How do you know this dance?" I ask in her ear.

"My father taught it to me this morning." She turns her face closer to mine. "Plus I had to dance with every royal here for an hour before you showed up."

I smile, spin her out, and then bring her closer to me.

"Everything is my fault, just like usual," I say lightly.

"Just like usual," she mocks my tone.

I think about her previous words.

"You had to dance with every royal here for a hour?"

"A hour and five minutes," she corrects me.

"No wonder you wanted to hide."

"And why I can't stand balls," she adds.

"Right."

I spin her out and in again. I marvel at how she floats on the floor while she's dancing. Emma was definitely born to be a princess. Her purple dress swirls around her ankles as she twirls in and out of my arms. I know I'm not a good enough dancer to be seen with her.

"You want to get out of here?" I offer.

A wide grin breaks out on her face.

"I thought you would never ask."

We hold hands tightly as we make our way through the crowd. We are looking back at the crowd constantly to see if anyone is watching us. Quietly, Emma pulls the front door open and we slid out, unnoticed.

Silently she leads me to her yellow bug, which is parked in the full parking lot to the side of City Hall. I break from her to climb into the passenger's seat.

Both of us know where we're going without having to talk about it. I turn to smile at her when we reach the 'leaving Storybrooke' sign to see her already smiling at me.

Emma parks on the side of the road. She leaves the car without acknowledging me, knowing I will follow.

I need a moment to regroup again, though for different reasons than last night. When I am ready, I slowly leave her car and follow her.

She is sitting on the same fallen tree branch, her dress sprawled around her, waiting for me. I feel my lips turn up when I approach her.

"You know, I should be really mad at you."

I roll my eyes. "Really? What did I do this time, apart from being late to your party?"

"It's your fault the whole town knows it's my birthday."

I walk closer to her, our legs almost touching, "Everything's my fault, remember?"

"I couldn't go anywhere without people saying happy birthday."

"And, that's a crime how?"

"I was on emotional overload all day," I run my hands lightly through her hair. Emma's eyes softly look at me and I know it's comforting to her. "And these days that's pretty typical, but today it was nonstop without a break. I felt like I was going to explode."

"Why?" I ask softly.

Emma takes a deep breath, moves even closer to me, and then looks deeper into my eyes than ever before. "Because no one has ever remembered my birthday before," she whispers into my mouth and looks at me with longing.

Before I know it, my head is turning and my lips are closing whatever distance is left between us.


A/N: There are two reasons I'm evil. 1) I left you with that cliffhanger and 2) I didn't update for four whole days! :0 I'm doing my best to update as quickly as possible. xoxo