Hello again, lovely readers! So man...was last week's episode intense or what? It answered a lot of questions I've had since the beginning about what the curse was like in the beginning, what they're lives were like before Emma strolled in, and what made Regina want a son. The effects of Welcome to Storybrooke have led to this, a story in three parts from Henry's POV about what life growing up as the only non-cursed person in Storybrooke was like. I wonder if they'll ever do another flashback episode and explain how he came to the conclusion the town was cursed. In the meantime, this is my take! Enjoy!
Growing Up in Storybrooke, Part 1
I figured out that I was adopted when I was 8.
I talked back to my mom one night, and she took away my comic book. I really wasn't trying to be bad the afternoon I went looking for it, but it had been three days and she normally gave them back after three days. She was hardly ever around then, though, always at her office, always acting all antsy and annoyed, not like how she used to be.
She used to be fun, warm, even silly sometimes, but only for me. I realized when I was really little that my mom's warmth was only for me, no one else. To everyone else, she was a completely different person. Cold, mean, and always sarcastic. And she wondered why I developed a smart mouth so early on.
There were always good days and bad days with my mom growing up. There would be some days when she would just randomly shut me out, not even speak to me, and I never knew why. But then the next day she'd take me out for ice cream and let me stay up late to watch a movie with her. As I got older, though, the good days got fewer and fewer and the bad days came more often. I just knew it was because I was a bad boy, and I tried to be good for her, I did, but sometimes it was hard.
I was convinced that I had a right to get my comic book back, though, and she wasn't home. She hardly ever was those days, and I figured since she'd already forgotten about it, she wouldn't notice if I just took it.
Mom didn't like others in her personal space, even me. So the only room of the house I never went in to unless she was there was her room. Stepping inside I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I'd been in there. It must have been the last time she let me crawl into bed with her after a nightmare. But that was years ago.
I walked around the room for a moment uncertainly. Everything was perfectly in place, and I knew good and well that disturbing even one of her many perfume bottles wouldn't go unnoticed.
I timidly opened a few of the drawers of her dresser, finding only clothes. I kept poking, slowly losing my nerve, but just kept telling myself, "one more drawer."
Just when I was about to give up, I opened her closet and saw a small box on the high shelf, and it had my name on it.
I ran downstairs to the garage and found our stepladder, and hurried back to her room to snatch the box down.
I took it over to the bed and opened it. Right there at the top was my comic book, but that wasn't all. The box was filled with things of mine, baby things mostly. There was a small pouch that held fuzzy blonde hair...mine from my first haircut, I guess. I was blonde back then?
There were a few drawings of mine, and I sniggered at how bad I was at drawing back then. There was one picture of Mom that I remembered drawing. I remembered she cried for some reason, and it baffled me. I drew her as a queen, why would that make her cry?
I smiled at the little memories, feeling kind of happy that my mom kept it all. Those days I sometimes felt like she didn't even care about me. This proved that she did, right?
But there, at the bottom of the box, were two pieces of paper that weren't bad drawings. One said, "adoption," and even though I was 8, I knew full well what that meant.
The other was my birth certificate, and I knew what that was too. At least I assumed it was mine, even though where my name should have been only said "Baby Boy," and the place for my mother's name didn't say, "Regina Mills."
It said "Emma Swan."
I don't know how long I stared at that name. I wanted to make sure I didn't forget it, but at the same time I knew from the moment I saw the letters, it was like that name was burned into me.
Slowly, numbly, I placed my birth certificate back into the box, followed by the adoption papers, which I vaguely registered my mom's name on, along with all the other items, including my comic book.
I took an extra-long amount of time to make sure my presence in Mom's room wouldn't be noticed, took the ladder back to the garage, and went to my room.
Emma Swan. Emma Swan. Emma.
I chanted her name in my head over, and over, and over.
Why didn't my mom tell me that I was adopted?
And what was more...why didn't my real mom want me?
If Mom noticed that I wasn't speaking to her, or to anyone really, she didn't say anything. For weeks all I could think about was Emma Swan. What did she look like? Did I look like her? What about my dad...his name wasn't on the certificate.
There was no one really for me to talk to. I didn't really have any friends, but it was hard to make friends when you were always changing, growing, moving on to higher grades and everyone else stayed where they were.
But that was normal, right? I was the weird one. I was the only one who got taller. The only one who went from kindergarten to first grade, then to second. I was a freak. Like a reversed Peter Pan.
"Mom?" I asked when I was 6 years old. "Why do I have to go to first grade when Tom and all my friends get to stay in kindergarten?"
Mom smiled. "Because you're smarter than them, sweetie. You're special. They're just not bright enough to move on."
I guess they really weren't, because Tom didn't move on the next year either. No one did. Just me. I used to try to ask kids about it, but they would just give me weird or dirty looks, so I stopped asking. I even tried to ask my teachers, but they just looked at me like I was crazy, so sometimes...I wondered if I was.
After finding my birth certificate though, I started wondering about it all again. I mean, I watched TV (sometimes, when I my let me,) and I went online. I saw other people, other places...and in those places things changed. On The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, all of the kids grew up just like me, and every day was different for them.
But in Storybrooke, it was like everything was on repeat, and once I started paying close attention, it was impossible not to notice.
Every morning we had breakfast at Granny's, and every morning Granny yelled at her granddaughter Ruby about staying out too late the night before, usually saying something about eggs being over easy, but I never got the joke.
Every morning the door to the school bus would stick, and the bus driver would complain about it. Sometimes I suggested he get it fixed, and every time he'd say he'd do it tomorrow. It never got fixed.
"Mom, am I weird?" I asked at dinner one night, one of the few she was actually home early enough for.
"Why would you ask that, sweetie?"
I shrugged. "It's just...why do I have to learn the exact same thing in school every day, only for you to have extra schoolwork waiting for me at home?"
Mom chuckled. "Oh, Henry, we've talked about this. You're smarter than all the other kids in school; they need the repetition so they can learn. I only give you extra work since you're so bright. Now, if you'd rather not go to school, I can get you that tutor..."
"No!" I exclaimed. She'd offered before to let me be taught at home, but as boring as school was, I couldn't give up the only time I was allowed to be with people other than my mom. "No, I like school. It's just that everything in this town stays the same."
A look flashed across my mom's face, one I couldn't even begin to understand. "I know what you mean," she said carefully. "I feel that way sometimes too."
Hope bloomed in my chest. She understood! So maybe I wasn't crazy! "Really?! You do?"
"Mmhmm, I think that's just part of being in a small town, though. Everything is just so simple, it just seems like nothing changes because it happens so slowly."
My shoulders slumped. She didn't understand after all. Things weren't changed slowly they weren't changing at all.
The next week, my mom sent me to Dr. Hopper for the first time. At first I was scared, because don't people only go to psychiatrists when they're crazy? But after a few visits I started really looking forward to it.
Dr. Hopper didn't understand what I meant about the town changing either, but at least he didn't make excuses about it, he just let me talk it out.
"Why do you feel like you're the only one growing, Henry?"
I sighed. "Because I AM the only one growing. Tom was my friend in kindergarten, and now that I'm in second grade, he's still in the same class!"
Dr. Hopper got that look on his face. I called it the Space Face. It was the same expression everyone made when I asked questions. Like, I asked Granny if she'd ever been anywhere beside Storybrooke, and she made a Space Face before telling me that she'd been to Germany as a child.
Dr. Hopper put on his Space Face for a second before telling me that he thought Tom was younger than me.
Dr. Hopper wasn't trying to fool me, I could tell. Dr. Hopper never lied. He just really didn't know.
When I was 9, I got into a fight with my mom, over TV, of all things, and screamed at her that she wasn't my real mom.
"What?" she gasped. "Why would you say such a thing?"
"I saw my birth certificate," I spat. "And my adoption papers."
"Henry listen to me," she knelt down, and gently took my shoulders. "Just because I didn't give birth to you, doesn't mean that I love you any less. If anything, it makes me love you more because you're such a precious gift to me! I love you, Henry, you're my son. Nothing will ever change that!"
And I believed her, at least then I did. Honestly, I really didn't care that she wasn't my real mom. She was my mom.
Maybe if she had stopped pulling away from me after that, I would never have wanted to find my real mom. But after that she was colder than ever. Sometimes I felt like she was...waiting for something. Something she was dreading, something she didn't want to happen, but kind of knew it would.
I was probably the only person in the world who could tell that Regina Mills was scared. Of what? I had no idea.
The year I went into 4th grade, Mom almost forced me to start homeschool. I was adamant though, and since we'd been fighting so much lately, she gave in and let me go. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what she had against my 4th grade teacher, Miss Blanchard, but whenever she saw the quiet, sweet woman she all but growled.
"I don't trust her," she mumbled on the walk to school the first day.
"Why?" I asked. I had only met Miss Blanchard once at open house, and though she seemed nice to me, I was fully willing to believe Mom's reasons to be against her.
"She's..." Mom furrowed her eyebrows. "She's just not trustworthy."
Well that wasn't reason enough for me, and I quickly found that Miss Blanchard was my favorite teacher ever.
Even though she, like all my teachers before, taught the same thing day in and day out, she somehow managed to make it interesting every day.
Even though I felt like I could make a birdhouse in my sleep within the first month, I still somehow sat in rapt attention when she talked about how if you love a bird, and it loves you, it will always find you.
Always find you...there was something about that I liked.
I became an unashamed teacher's pet, especially since I didn't really have friends; I didn't worry about getting teased. Miss Blanchard had seemed surprised when she learned I was in her class at open house, and I knew it was because she was afraid of my mom. But soon she was giving me the warmest smile every morning, as if she was just as happy to see me as I was to see her. As if I was special, and not just crazy.
Miss Blanchard dismissed us for lunch one afternoon. "No running!" she called, like always. "Henry, can you stay just a second?" not like always. "Is everything okay? You've been really quiet today."
I shrugged. "Do you ever get the feeling that there's something weird about this town?"
Space Face. "Um...no. I mean, small towns have their quirks, certainly!"
I sighed, unwilling to push it further. I didn't think I couldn't handle it if Miss Blanchard looked at me like I was crazy too, even though in my heart I didn't think she ever would.
"Did you know I'm adopted?"
She took a deep breath. "Yeah, I know. I didn't know you did."
I shrugged again. "I found out a couple years ago. My mother's name was Emma Swan."
A look crossed Miss Blanchard's face, but it wasn't the Space Face, it was something else entirely.
"Did you know her?" I asked.
She shook her head. "No, sorry, you arrived here from out of state."
I sat down in a chair near her desk, lunch nowhere on my mind. Never before had anyone, not even Dr. Hopper told me anything about my adoption at all.
"Was I just a baby?"
"Yeah, a newborn. You were so cute too!"
I grinned. "I don't ever remember ever really meeting you before you became my teacher."
"Oh, well, I only ever saw you in passing. Your mom was very protective; she wouldn't let anyone else hold you or anything."
I frowned, getting a funny feeling that Miss Blanchard had really wanted to hold me when I was a baby.
"But I just don't understand," I knew I had decided not to push it, but things just weren't making sense. "You know Mrs. Shoemaker's baby?"
Miss Blanchard nodded.
"She's been a baby for as long as I can remember, but I didn't stay a baby. I grew up!"
There was that Space Face again. "I...I don't...I don't know, Henry."
She looked like she was starting to get worried, and that kind of scared me, so I changed the subject. "Sometimes I think since now that I know Mom isn't my real mom, she doesn't love me as much."
Miss Blanchard's face fell. "Oh, honey, I know that isn't true. Madame Mayor is...well, I think it's difficult for her to show what she's really feeling. I think maybe she was hurt, in the past. But I know she loves you, Henry, maybe right now she's just having a hard time showing it."
"Maybe," I said, and then sat down at my desk to eat my lunch. To cheer me up, Miss Blanchard sat backwards at the desk in front of me and we made castles out of my pretzel sticks, and then had a tiny sword fight with some of them.
"How come you don't have any kids, Miss Blanchard?" I asked. "You'd be a great mom."
I could never explain how crushed Miss Blanchard looked just then. I scrambled for words to take away the one's I'd said, but there were none.
She put a hand on mine. "Oh, there's nothing to be sorry about, I would love to have children someday. It just isn't...time yet."
Feeling a bit more relaxed again, I asked, "Would you want a girl or a boy?"
She chuckled and squeezed my hand. "Well I'd certainly love a little boy like you! But...I think first, I'd like a girl," she looked dazed for a second, before smiling and shaking her head. "But first I have to work on finding that Prince Charming!"
I laughed, and we started sword fighting again.
The next day I bumped into my friend, Tom. He had been the only best friend I'd ever had, we would play knights and dragons, and we would rescue damsels in distress, or pretend we were only an inch tall and crawl through the high grass.
"Hi Tom," I said, smiling down at him. He used to be bigger than me, since I was kind of a puny kid and he was tall and large for his age, but now I towered over him.
"Hi Henry!" he said excitedly. "We made handprints in class today!"
I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, I know, I did that too, remember?"
Blink. "Oh yeah, when you were little like me."
He didn't seem to notice that I grew up without him.
"Do you wanna play pretend today?" he asked me. "We can play like we're bugs!"
"Uh, no thanks," I didn't really like playing that game anymore, especially since I was too big to crawl into some of the places we used to.
"Come on, Tom!" my old kindergarten teacher called, and Tom shuffled away with his class.
This was why I couldn't make friends. I would always grow and pass them, moving on and changing, and they never would. It just didn't seem fair.
What was wrong with me?
"Henry," Miss Blanchard said one day after the bell had rung. "Do you have a minute?"
I smiled and walked to her desk. I'd started walking home by myself, so I didn't have to worry about Mom waiting on me. "What's up?" I asked.
She grinned excitedly. "The birdhouse you made today was exceptional! I didn't want to say this in front of the rest of the class, but it was by far the best!"
I half smiled and fidgeted uncomfortably. My first birdhouse had been awful, but I got better eventually. It bothered me though, like it always did, when I seemed to be the only person who thought we made birdhouses every day. It scared me when other's brought things up like it was the first time it ever happened, because I was the only one who thought otherwise.
"But that isn't why I called you over," Miss Blanchard said was the wave of her hand. She was much more at ease with me than anyone else. From what I'd seen, I was the only person she spoke to in anything above a timid whisper. "I have something for you."
That perked me up. "Really?"
Miss Blanchard smirked with the most uncharacteristic mischief I'd ever seen in her, lighting her up in way that made her seem like an entirely different person, and pulled a giant book out from under her desk.
With a thunk, the enormous leather-bound book landed on the surface of her desk. I leaned forward to peer at the shiny gold letters. "Once Upon a Time?"
She nodded, still smiling. "I came across it in Mr. Gold's shop. I'm surprised with myself for even being brave enough to go in there! But I saw this, and just couldn't resist. It's a book about fairy tales, the ones we all know but they're better. I want you to have it."
"Really?" I gingerly picked it up. It was as heavy as it looked. "For me?"
"Now, before you tell me that you're too old for fairy tales, let me just tell you that I read the stories in here myself. They're really exciting. There are sword fights, and good versus evil! And the good always triumphs..." she blinked a few times. "Good always wins, always finds the happy ending...and well, there's romance too," I rolled my eyes and she giggled. "With kisses that break curses! Just give it a try."
I held the book to my chest, more excited about it being a gift from Miss Blanchard than the book itself. But I did love to read, so I thanked her several times and ran home.
Once home, I rushed to finish my chores and homework, then I ran to my room to crack open the book. The first story was about Snow White, but it was a lot different than the Disney one I was used to. For starters, this Snow White was tough, and funny too. After being banished by the Evil Queen and spared by the Huntsman, Snow White became a warrior, not just a flippy wimp who relied solely on dwarfs. She brandished a bow and arrow, she stole from royals, she gave her prince the nick-name Charming just to annoy him. She was awesome!
What was hard to get over was how much the picture of Snow White looked like Miss Blanchard. Especially after seeing that playful look in her eyes that day, because it was the same look Snow White was giving Prince Charming from the net he'd ensnared her in in the picture.
I had to stop reading once Mom came home, and I stuffed the book under my pillow. I was suddenly afraid she'd take it away for some reason, if nothing else then because Miss Blanchard gave it to me.
We spoke little at dinner, and I took myself to bed. I waited until I heard the front door open and shut late that night to start reading again. I don't know why Mom didn't think I knew that Sheriff Graham came over almost every night, but she tried awful hard to hide it. I was 10 though, not stupid, and I knew he came over to kiss and stuff. I didn't know what "and stuff" was, but I was happy not knowing.
I read that night until my eyes burned and drooped, then spent the entire next day, which was Saturday, in my castle at the park with my nose buried in the pages.
It wasn't just Miss Blanchard. Red Riding Hood was so much like Ruby I was astounded Miss Blanchard hadn't noticed. She even had a Granny just like Ruby. The Huntsman in the pictures looked just like Graham.
I read about Snow White's friends, the dwarfs, and between their descriptions and pictures, I was eventually able to match each one up to guys I knew in Storybrooke. Leroy was the easiest. He just sort of screamed "Grumpy."
The most unbelievable, though, was Snow White's stepmother, the Evil Queen.
In the book, her name was Regina.
Okay, I was old enough and read enough books to know Regina is as good a name as any for an evil queen, but the Regina in Once Upon a Time was my mom in almost every way. The way she dressed, talked, smiled, hated.
Reading, I just knew whoever wrote it must have based it off of our town. I found myself flipping through the pages to the end, curious if I was in it too.
What I found at the end of the story made my insides feel cold.
The Evil Queen cast a curse on the Enchanted Forest to get revenge against Snow White. She sent everyone to a "horrible" place where there were "no happy endings."
Snow White and Prince Charming were desperate for a way to save everyone, and went to The Dark One, Rumpelstiltskin, (who I still couldn't place in Storybrooke,) and asked him how to stop the curse.
Rumpelstiltskin told them the only way was to get their child, who Snow White was carrying, to safety, and in 28 years she would return and the curse would be broken.
They built a wardrobe that could save one person from the curse, and Snow White was going to go through, but started having her baby too early. Instead they were forced to put the poor little baby girl in the wardrobe alone. Prince Charming fought off multiple guards, all while carrying his daughter, to get her to the wardrobe in time, and whispered to her to find them.
They will always find you.
The baby princess escaped the curse, and that was the end of the book. But that wasn't what made me freeze, made me stare at the page so long my eyes watered.
The baby was named Emma.