"Where are we?" Snow asked, looking around her at the unfamiliar, unwelcoming neighborhood.
"What did you do?" Charming asked, rounding on Mr. Gold.
"You said you wanted to get to know more about your daughter's past," Mr. Gold said simply in his oily voice. "So here we are."
"And where is here, exactly?" Snow asked.
"In her memories," Mr. Gold said.
Snow and Charming both froze and looked imploringly at Mr. Gold. Snow had been trying to get her daughter to tell her more about her past, but Emma had been so defiant to speak on the subject. The more she refused, the more anxious Snow became. How was she to know her daughter if she wouldn't let her in?
Foolishly, she had gone to Mr. Gold for help, and of course, as is always the case, when you go to Mr. Gold, you get what you pay for.
"I meant giving her a gentle prodding!" Snow said, exasperated. "Not jump into her memories unwanted!"
"Come now, deary, if you hadn't wanted magic, you wouldn't have come to me."
Snow had no response to that. Was this in fact what she wanted? To get to know what her daughter had been through in her childhood, even if it meant betraying her deepest privacy?
"We can't just go poking around her memories without her consent!" Charming badgered, but Snow quieted him as a young, blonde girl came walking towards them down the street.
"Look!" she said. She and Charming watched, silently mesmerized, as their daughter walked past them and down the street. She came close to running them over but paid them no mind, so that Snow knew she could not see her. She was wearing rough, old jeans and a tattered, bulky coat against the cold. Although Snow could not feel the cold as an outsider presence in this memory, she could see it must have been the dead of winter because her young daughter was huddle and there was breathe steaming into the chill from her lips. The argument was dropped as the two parents, entranced by their daughter, followed her to the foot of the stoop of one of the townhouses.
When Emma opened the door to the worn down townhouse that was her temporary home, the lights were off. She peered around skeptically, slowly stepping through the threshold. She wondered if someone had finally turned their power out. She had seen the notices of the overdue bills for a few weeks now, so it was only a matter of time although she was not looking forward to spending these cold winter nights with no heat.
"You gonna come in and shut that damned door?" her foster father grunted from where he sat in the shadows on the sofa at the far end of the room. He made Emma jump, although she hoped he hadn't noticed. She saw an empty bottle of whiskey dangling from his fingers. She did not reach for the door right away.
"Where's Martha?" she asked after her foster mother.
"Who told you you could ask questions?" he barked back at her. "Now close the damned door, it's fucking freezing out."
Snow recoiled at the man's language. Though Emma was quite tall, she couldn't have been older than thirteen. She sensed the hostility of the home and instantly grew fearful of what this memory would show. She glanced about the house, bathed in the shadow of the last light of the winter day. To say it was modest would have been generous.
Emma reluctantly reached over and slid the door shut behind her. She dropped her jacket at the foot of the coat stand by the door and readjusted her book bag on her shoulder. Without looking at her foster father, who had clumsily vacated his seat on the sofa and stumbled forward, she turned directly for the staircase. But he blocked her path, his eyes bloodshot and his stubble prominent in the shadow of the winter dusk.
"Where do you think you're going?" he asked.
"I have a lot of homework to do," she told him, avoiding his piercing stare. He grunted a laugh.
"Homework. You do too much of that shit," he said, taking a swig from the empty bottle in his hand in an attempt to drain the last droplets. Emma did not respond. She attempted to side-swipe him, but he caught her harshly by the upper arm and flung her unceremoniously backwards so that she scrambled to look dignified as she kept her balance.
Charming stepped forward protectively. He did not like this man's hands on his daughter. Not one bit.
"Hold on a second," he said gruffly. "I need to talk to you about something. Sit down."
Emma remained standing, her skin crawling with discomfort.
"Are you sending me away?" she asked, both hopeful and dreadful that the answer would be yes. She did not want to relocate again, but at the same time she did not particularly like this host stay family. The brother most specifically made her uncomfortable.
"I said sit!" he reiterated aggressively, moving towards her so quickly that her knees automatically buckled and she sank into the sofa. She looked up at him, defiant.
"Look if you're going to send me away then you might as well do it and get it over with," she said.
He pointed an unfocused finger at her, the whiskey bottle dangling from the same hand and reflecting the last glint of the winter sun as it set over the other houses in the neighborhood.
"I should send you away," he told her, "for that mouth of yours."
Emma knew not to argue with him when he was in this state. She sat in silence on the sofa and watched him pace in front of her, seeming to vacillate about what he was trying to say. Then, in a swift movement, he was sitting next to her on the sofa. Emma tensed as he put his arm around her shoulder.
"But you don't want to go away, do you, Ella?"
"Emma," she corrected, sitting stiffly under the weight of his arm around her.
"But if you are going to stay, you need to be good, right? You need to do what you're told. Do you understand?"
"I'm just going to go do my homework," she said evasively, making to leave the sofa, but he pulled her back down, closer to him.
"Are you going to be good, Ella?" he said. "Are you going to obey?"
Slowly his second hand had come across and rested on her leg. He squeezed it slightly and she shuttered.
Snow gasped, horrified, while Charming curled his hand into a fist, his face white with rage and a vein pulsating in his neck.
"Touch me," she growled defensively, "and I will call the cops faster than you can undo your belt."
The threat hung for a moment of terse silence as she waited for the reaction. He stood swiftly, drawing something from the belt at his hip. With it he dealt her a strong back-handed smack across her face that sent her sprawling over the sofa arm. Grateful for the freedom, she stumbled over the coffee table and backed away, gathering as much distance from the raging man as she could find. She reached up to put pressure to the new wound on her cheek, which she found was bleeding. When she righted herself, she saw the barrel of a small handgun pointed back at her.
"Hey!" Charming barked, lunging forward as the violence ensued, forgetting for a moment that he could not stop any of this from happening. It had already happened. Snow too forgot herself and bounded into action.
"N-!" she stifled her own exclamation, jumping between her daughter and the gun barrel for the sake of doing something.
"What makes you think they'd believe a fucking slut like you, anyways?" he screamed at her, spittle spraying from the passion in his voice. "You can go to hell for all I care, just get the fuck out of my house, you little whore."
"Fine," Emma said through clenched teeth. "I'm going."
She squatted down to pick up her jacket, but he released the trigger and she was forced to back out of the way of the bullet.
Snow and Charming both jumped at the sound. The bullet tore through Snow as if she wasn't even there which, Snow had to remind herself, she wasn't.
"Leave the jacket and get the fuck out!" he bellowed. She did not need to be told twice, but she did dodge two more shots as she pulled open the door and shot out it. She jumped the stairs and left at a sprint for two blocks before she slowed to a walk. She could see her breath in front of her, and hugged herself for warmth for lack of a jacket. She took a deep, stabilizing breath before she began to walk again.