Emma is 5 years old when Snow looks in the mirror and decides that she's not aging. She could be wrong of course but her face doesn't look a bit different than how it looked when she first came through the wardrobe. "Interesting," she murmurs to herself as she pokes and prods at her skin, trying to notice anything that's different. She supposes that it goes along with her getting men to do whatever she wants, something that she's cut down on a lot as she gets used to the real world. She seems to have some sort of magic in this world, something that makes her wonder what kind of world it really is that she's living in.
Both of the kids are at school, getting an education that Snow finds it hard not to scoff at. She thinks that she could teach them much better, and include even more important things like archery and sword fighting (that causes a twinge that makes her wish her husband was here), but she is too busy to teach them. She pores over maps daily, sometimes with Emma and sometimes alone. She thinks that Emma might recognize a place, might know where they're supposed to go but Emma, who thinks it's just a game in the beginning, doesn't ever have an idea.
Emma is a precocious little girl, loud, with the idea that she wants to be a police woman when she grows up. Snow works part time at the school, part time at the library, always doing this and that and getting paid enough that she can afford to travel. They "vacation" more than any other family, always searching. Snow looks in every single face that they pass, wondering if her husband will be one of them. He never is. After a while, Snow goes to a school (a different one than the kids) and becomes a teacher, teaching kids all about important things like friendship and birds. She's disappointed that swords aren't allowed inside but she makes do with mathematics and the like.
As Emma grows up, Snow takes as many pictures as she can. She throws both her and August big birthday parties, baking cupcakes and brownies and cakes for both of them to take to their classes and the two always invite their friends over for sleepovers. She tries not to think about the husband that she longs for. When Emily turns 16 they move to a place called Portland, Oregon (picked randomly by spinning a globe and Emma pointing her finger, yawning through the whole thing). Snow rents an apartment, enrolls the kids in school and gets a job at the local school.
Snow tells the children everything, hiding nothing about their past. When they move to Portland, she promises August that they'll stay in one place for a while and he enrolls in classes at the local community college saying that he's 23 and he needs to start setting up his future just in case. It's midway through the term that Emma skips her high school classes, tagging along with a reluctant August. "Come on, I just need a break," Emma begs and so she goes, sitting in the backseat of his car as he takes his class, reading a book that she's read a million times.
Emma doesn't mind sitting in the backseat of the car. Anything that gets her away from her crazy mom. She loves her mom, she does. Her mom is the best mom ever because she's always making sweets and signs her up for cheerleading and gymnastics and lets her do whatever and loves her but it's such a drag. Her mom is always going on about how she's meant to be this great savior and she's pretty sure that it's not something that she wants. Reading is much better.
She knows that the class is almost over when the front door of August's car opens and Emma sits up fast enough that she hits her head on the ceiling, her book dropping to the floor. "Ow! Who are you?" she asks, one hand against her head, her head starting to throb nearly immediately.
The man gasps, swinging around in his seat to look at her and Emma's breath catches because iwow/i he is the most attractive man that she has ever seen. "The question is, who are you?" he asks, closing the front door as he settles. Emma curses inwardly as she sees that August had left the keys in the ignition in case she wanted to turn on the radio.
"My name's Emma and this is my brother's car you're stealing, asshole."
He smirks and her stomach twists almost painfully. Emma swallows hard, trying to calm herself as he nods, looking entirely too bored with the thought that he was stealing a car. "I see. I didn't realize somebody was in here. He did leave the keys. It makes it all too easy."
Shaking herself, Emma sits up straight, looking at him, first in his eyes and then at his nose because she can't focus on his eyes without feeling that sickness in her stomach. "Okay, look. If you don't get out of the car right now then I'm going to punch you."
"Oh really?" he asks incredulously. His disbelief is the last straw for her and she leans forward, curling her fist in the way that her mom had taught her and hitting him. It's quite satisfying and he gapes at her, his hand coming up to his nose. She can see that he hadn't been expecting her to actually follow through with her threat.
Emma just smiles demurely, picking at her fingernails. She won't let him see that it did kind of hurt her hand. "I did warn you. Now will you get out of the car?"
The man looks down at his fingers, making sure that he's not bleeding before smiling widely, nodding at her. "Wow. That was amazing. I'm Neal. It's nice to meet you."
"Seriously?" she asks, ignoring the way that he looks her up and down, awe evident in his eyes. At least, she thinks its awe. There's at least a little bit of awe there. Giving up, she sits back against the seat. He's leaning between the seats, in her way if she was going to try to push her way in between them and her head still hurts. "I'm Emma. Get out of my brother's car."
Neal looks at her for a moment before pulling the keys out of the ignition and hanging them within her reach, pulling them back when she tries to grab them. Emma tilts her head to the side, raising one eyebrow and doing her best to look threatening. "Sure. Let me take you out to lunch."
"Um, no. First of all, you're probably twice my age." She ignores him as he opens his mouth to say something. "Second, you just tried to steal my brother's car and might still be attempting it, I'm not sure. Because of this, I have a feeling you wouldn't pay for us and I'm not one for dining and dashing. All in all, no. Now, if I'm not mistaken it looks like my brother's class has gotten out so please leave."
With a glance behind his back to see that she was telling the truth, Neal tosses the keys at Emma, opening the driver side door again. "Alright, Emma. I will see you again though and I was planning on paying for lunch. We'll do it another time."
Emma watches as he leaves the car, picking up her book from the floor of the car and trying to breathe. Her heart is pounding and she slides into the passenger seat, determined not to sit in the back seat again no matter how much more comfortable it is. When August gets into the front seat she opens her mouth, about to say something to him and then she closes it. Neal hadn't harmed her or ended up stealing the car. And he is incredibly cute.
Maybe at 16 years old she isn't making the right choice but she smiles at August. "Let's go out to lunch. I'm starving."
"Okay," August says, surprised by it but he reverses out of the parking space and heads to their favorite burger place. Emma can't take her mind off the mysterious stranger in the car as she listens to August tell her about his classes. She wonders if it's true. She wonders if she will see him again.