Chapter 29

Erica was trying to shake the plaguing thoughts from her head while listening to Mother Superior's instructions. She looked around the room and realized she didn't know half the people on Rachel's side. However, her parents and younger brothers seemed to get along with them. She started to wonder if staying in New York as much was worth it. She felt out of the loop a bit.

She didn't notice Daniel's presence until he wrapped an arm around her shoulder. "Penny for your thoughts?"

Erica looked up at her father and cracked a smile. "Nothing really. Everybody seems to be getting along. How do you all know them so well?"

"What are you talking about? You've met Rachel's family," Daniel replied.

"Only her parents and that was quite a while ago. How did you all become so connected with the extended family?"

"Oh, well Rachel's parents decided to invite your mom and I to different functions and they took a liking to us," he said.

Erica nodded. "Are they okay with our family history?"

"Rachel's parents are the only ones who know. According to Rachel, they are the only ones who need to know. All the others just think we are a normal and happy family which we are," he said. "Rachel accepted it in her own time. Eventually, she became comfortable around us and she relaxed."

"Unlike some people," she muttered.

Daniel remained quiet. He never stopped worrying about her since she left home and went to Columbia. She'd become a shell of herself in his opinion. He didn't know how to bring the light back to her eyes.

They heard Mother Superior's voice calling for Daniel to come near the altar. "Duty calls," he said.

Erica watched him stand beside Emma, Neal and Regina as the rehearsal commenced. Amazing how they all got along now. If it were not for Henry, Emma and Regina would still be at each other's throats over every little thing.

She looked at Rachel standing with her father at the end of the aisle. Her heart sunk a little because she once held the dream of walking down the aisle with her father escorting her. That dream was long gone and never coming a reality.

She heard the Blue Fairy's voice directing her to stand with one of the groomsmen. She did as ordered and she waited for the music to start.

Meanwhile, Regina watched her daughter unbeknownst to her. She observed that her daughter's mind was somewhere else. She figured she was thinking about Scott. Her anger boiled at the thought. Her daughter's innocence was shattered the day Daniel was shot. That grieved Regina more.

Regina worried that the light in Erica's eyes would diminish and she was right to be concerned. Her lost innocence mirrored her own in a way. There were days when she wished she could turn back the hands of time and make sure that incident never happened. She sighed and turned her attention to Henry.

She smiled and fought to hold back tears. She knew she was probably going to be a sobbing mess tomorrow. Her Henry. Her sweet boy whom she instantly loved the minute she held him in her arms, had grown up to be a fine young man. She may not have been the best mother at times but she did her best. Now, he was getting married and would soon start a family of his own. She thought about the next chapter in her life: being a grandmother. She already resolved to spoil them rotten.

Regina chuckled to herself. She never thought she would have reached this point in her life. She felt Daniel squeeze her hand to bring her out of her thoughts. She looked at him and slightly leaned into him. After all these years, he still made her feel like the young girl in fairytale land.

Daniel leaned in and whispered, "Are you okay?"

She nodded her head yes. They heard the music start and they watched the bridesmaids and groomsmen take their positions. They saw Rachel being escorted by her father and handed off to her Henry; she had a loving look in her eyes.

The Blue Fairy proceeded with the rehearsal and they were all out in an hour.

The families decided to go to Regina and Daniel's for dinner. Everyone was having a good time except Erica. She felt claustrophobic for some odd reason. Maybe it was all the people in one confined space. She didn't know but she needed air. She quietly slipped out and walked down the street.

She stopped at the bench on the docks and sat. She looked out into the water. It was calming and she seemed to get her emotions under control. She sat there for a few minutes before she heard a voice.

"Nice night to take a walk, dearie," said Gold.

She jumped at the sound and turned to source. "Mr. Gold, what brings you here? Shouldn't you be at my mother's?"

"Well, princess, the same goes for you. I decided to follow you out here," he replied.

"Why?"

"You seemed distracted," he said.

"It's nothing. I wanted to take a walk so that's what I did." She really wasn't up for a conversation.

Gold sat down next to her and looked out. "The water is very calm until a storm hits. The currents become stronger and the tides become treacherous. If someone doesn't get help soon, they drown."

"What's the point?" asked Erica.

"I'm sorry dearie. You're going to have to be a little more specific with your question."

"What's the point of that little spiel? You think I'm drowning," said Erica.

"You, my dear, are drowning in fear. Fear of being unloved because of magic. Fear of repeating the past. Fear of acceptance. How long are you going to hold on to the past?"

She turned to him, her eyes hard and cold. "You're the one to lecture me about holding onto my past."

"No dearie. I'm the perfect person to lecture you. I held onto my past as a reminder. I used my pain as a crutch. I couldn't move forward until I had my son back. I manipulated and schemed and that is how I made my monster. I knew I needed someone dark and cold to cast the curse. It was just the matter of finding the right person."

"Regina came along and I knew she was the one. She was Cora's daughter and I figured her heart must be dark but she proved me wrong. I had to mold her and crush the light within her. Somewhere along the line, the student surpassed the teacher and we became rivals. Your mother's hatred for Snow White masked her pain of losing her true love and I capitalized on it."

"You destroyed her," Erica said.

"Debatable. She was already broken when I arrived on the scene. I just pushed her to the breaking point. One minute she goes from not wanting to crush a unicorn's heart to crushing the heart of a young woman."

"So you enjoyed watching my mother decline into madness," Erica said. "Did you want someone miserable as you?"

Gold looked out into the waters once more before answering. "Perhaps. Misery loves company. I relished in the fact that I was going to get closer to finding my son. Regina was nothing more than a beautiful and innocent pawn but I did care a little."

"Cared? I doubt that."

"It's true dearie. My relationship with Regina is complicated and maybe it will always be. We understand each other because of the time we spent together. We know how to push the buttons and get results."

"Look, I'm telling you this because I am fond of you. You are a Mills through and through. Mills women don't let any circumstance stop them from accomplishing anything. Do not let fear rule your being. You are stronger than that."

"Because of magic," Erica said.

"Because of love and strength. I chose power over love. Cora did the same thing. Look where that got her. Dearie, learn from our mistakes."

Gold got up and started to walk off.

"Wait," she called out.

He turned around. "How do you move past the fear?" she asked.

"Dearie, that is up to you." He left her on the bench.

"That was helpful," she muttered.

She walked to the stables and went inside. She went to her horse, Evie, and petted it. The horse instantly recognized her scent and nudged her slightly. She laughed quietly. "I've missed you too."

She leaned against the gate door and took in the silence. The stables were her second home. She felt at peace there among them. She closed her eyes for a second before she heard her brother's voice.

"We thought we would find you here," said Jacob.

Erica snorted. "Am I that predictable?"

"Afraid so, sis."

"I'm fine. You can go home," she said.

Jacob shook his head. "Not until I take you with me. Mom noticed your disappearing act and freaked out. I offered to go and find you. I ran into Gold."

"How did you know I'd be in the stables?"

"You think you are the only one who comes here to calm down. Riding seems to run in the family," he joked.

"What are you so stressed about?"

"Normal stuff: the rent, school loans, dating. All the life problems."

"And?"

"And the fact I enlisted into the military and I haven't told mom and dad yet," Jacob said.

Erica's eyes widened a little. "When did you do that? Why did you do that?"

"I enlisted last week. I did it because I wanted to serve my country. I want to see the world and finally live my life. I've been stuck in school and trying to figure out what I want to do."

"So military life is the answer," Erica said.

"It's my answer. I've thought about this for a long time. Ever since sophomore year of college but you and I both know there was no way of dropping out of college. I stuck it out and finally decided to go for it."

"Does John know?" asked Erica.

"Yes and so does Henry and Rachel. We didn't want to say anything until after the wedding."

"Well good. We don't need mom or dad freaking out."

"You ready to go home?" asked Jacob.

"I told you-

"And I told you I'm not going back until I take you with me."

They stared at each other waiting for the other to back down. Erica gave up. "Fine. We'll go."

Jacob and Erica arrived home to see all the cars gone for the most part. They walked in to see their parents waiting up for them.

Regina rushed to them. "Where have you two been?"

"At the stables," said Jacob.

Daniel nodded. "Regina, I told you they would be fine. Let's go to bed."

Regina eyed her children once more. "At least tell somebody where you are going next time."

Erica held her hand up. "I promise."

Regina stared at her son. "I was going to get her, remember. She's the one who made everyone worried."

"Jacob," she said drawing out his name.

He sighed. "I promise too."

"Good. You two go to bed," Regina ordered. They marched upstairs.

"She still treats us like babies," Jacob muttered.

Regina watched them and sighed. She headed upstairs and lay on the bed. Daniel lied down next to her. "Gina, they're adults. They don't have to check with us every single time."

"I know that," she pouted. "Still, I can't help but worry."

"I know but you have to trust them," he chided.

Regina sighed. "You're right. I can't help to see them as little children. It was just yesterday when we brought them home from the hospital."

Daniel said, "Maybe but those babies are grown and at some point you have to let all of them go."

"Do I have to?"

Daniel chuckled. "Yes but you never stop being a parent. It's just a different way of parenting."

"When did you become so wise?" she asked.

"I was always wise. You chose not to acknowledge it at times," he joked.

"Whatever," she said. She yawned. "I better get some sleep." She kissed him and turned on her side. She drifted off to sleep.