The storm raging wildly outside my home was getting worse. I stood in the kitchen finishing up dinner, while Robin and Roland played in the living room. Henry was with Emma; I knew she was capable of keeping him safe, but I still worried. It took every ounce of self control I possessed not to call and check on him for the third time this evening. I set our dinner out on the table and was heading back to the kitchen when I heard a thud outside in my front yard. I stopped and listened for a moment, but decided it must have been something the storm had thrown around outside. Then another noise caught my attention. It was a faint, but intentional knock. I hurried to the front door and flung it open. Looking out I didn’t see anyone then I looked down. There at my feet lay a young woman, covered in cuts and scrapes and bruises.
“Robin!” I yelled frantically and he came running to me and gasped when he saw the girl on the font porch.
“Robin we have to help her.” Fear coursed through my body at the sight of her broken body. He nodded and scooped her up gently in his strong arms. I closed the door and followed him into the living room. Her blood dripped onto the floor leaving a trail behind her. I spread a blanket over the couch and Robin put her down on top of it. Now that she was in the light we could both see her better.
“I know her.” I gasped and looked at Robin with a curious expression.
“You do, how?” I didn’t understand how he could know this young woman. I couldn’t remember ever seeing her in Storybrook before.
“She came to my camp soon after my wife died. She told me how she was looking for a way to bring her mother’s memories back. She said that when her mother was younger she had fallen in love with a man she was forbidden to marry, but her mother didn’t care. Her mother’s mother was very powerful with magic and hurt her daughter often, both physically and emotionally. However one night this young Grace’s grandmother was called away and her mother took advantage of her absence. She spent the night in the hay loft with the man she loved. But just after this her grandmother killed her mother’s love and her mother was heart broken. Soon after his death she was forced to marry a king and live with him in his castle. She didn’t love the king but her grandmother kept her mother captive. Her mother discovered that she was pregnant soon after her marriage and did her best to hide it from her mother as long as she could. When the queen’s mother found out that she was pregnant with another man’s child she went crazy. She kept her daughter hidden until the child was born. When she had the baby her mother stole the child away in the night while the queen was sleeping. In the morning she woke to find her child was gone and was consumed with grief. The grandmother came to her daughter and comforted her and said that they would find the child. Her grandmother tried to soothe her grieving daughter with a glass of water. The queen drank the water and forgot that she had ever had a child.” I looked at Robin with confusion and horror written on my face. Her story was extremely similar to mine, except I never had a daughter.
“Oh Robin, that is horrible! So the queen never even had the chance to know her own child.” I turned back to the child on my couch and stroked her face, as a sigh escaped my lips. My finger found a rough place in her smooth skin and I realized that it was a scar. I ran my finger down the scar and remember a small face. Could it be? No it had been so long, so many years had passed. But the scar was a perfect match to the memory pulling at the back of my mind.
“I think I know her too,” I whispered scanning her face for recognition.
“You do?” It seemed crazy to think that we had both crossed paths with this young girl but I was convinced I had met her.
“Yes. Many, many years ago when I was just starting out on my evil path I was in my garden tending to my apple tree when there was a loud shaking of branches and a thump. I spun around and found a small girl sitting dazed in the grass. At first I was furious that someone had dared to disturb me, but when I saw who it was I hurried to her full of concern. She had cut her face terribly and I tried to wipe the blood away with my dress but she pulled away and wiped it on her own dirty little dress.
‘I am so sorry your majesty’ she said.
‘I had no intention of falling into your garden.’ Her little lips trembled as she spoke, fear tainting her voice. I asked what she had been doing and she told me that she came here to watch me tend to my apple tree. She had a tree of her own and someone had told her that I had the best tree in all the realms and she wanted to be able to take just as good of care of her tree as I did mine. She had these big grey eyes full of admiration. She kept saying she was sorry over and over again, and I could see the fear in her eyes as well. My heart went out to the child. She was so brave. She held herself straight and had complete command over her voice, the only thing that gave her away were her eyes. I asked her how old she was, and she replied ‘I am four ma’am, I mean majesty, sorry’. She asked me to send her back over the wall so that she could no longer bother me, but instead I took her hand and led her to my tree. At first she tensed at my touch, but within a moment she squeezed my hand and stepped lightly beside me. I showed her all my tricks. And before she left I tucked an apple blossom into her hair. After this she insisted that I send her back over the wall, which I must admit I was reluctant to do. There was something about her that allowed me to feel free, even in the prison of a castle. However just before I did she ran to me and wrapped her tiny arms around me tightly. She pressed her small face into my skirt. She only stayed a moment then pulled away but I grabbed her back into my arms and this time she was more reluctant to let go. I will never forget watching her disappear over the wall. In that moment when she hugged me I questioned my path of evil. Just that one hug had made me so happy. If only I had chosen that happiness.” I sighed as my memory finished playing in my head.
I looked at her and whispered “Where have you been?” She was torn up so terribly. She looked as if she had been tossed around in a tornado.
“Robin will you get me a couple rags and a bowl of water, we need to clean these cuts up, or they will get infected.”
“Of course Regina. They do look pretty bad.” He gave a sympathetic smile before he disappeared and returned in moments. He handed me a rag. I wet it and rung it out and wiped her hot face with it, then left it on her forehead. I took another rag and joined Robin in cleaning up her limbs.
“She is so banged up.” I looked at Robin in agreement.
“What do you think happened,” he asked. I didn’t know.
“Mama are we going to eat soon?” I looked around and found Roland standing behind me. I smiled. I had completely forgotten about dinner and my hungry little boy, who had been begging for food just moments before I found the young girl on my steps.
“Robin, why don’t the two of you go and eat. I will stay here with her.” Robin nodded. As they left the room I heard Roland ask “Who is that papa?” Robin explained gently as they disappeared out of the room.
I dabbed at each cut. They were all so fresh. What had happened to her? It wasn’t long before Robin rejoined me along with Roland.
“That was quick!” I couldn’t help smiling.
“Roland insisted that he needed to come protect his Grace.” Robin gave his son a proud smile, and we both watched as the tot took Grace’s hand gently into his chubby little one.
“Mama is Grace going to be okay?” His young face showed his concern.
“Yes, of course she is Roland. You don’t need to worry.” Robin looked at me seeking the truth in my eyes, but I honestly didn’t know. All three of us sat together by Grace for a while, until I noticed how tired both Robin and Roland looked.
“Why don’t you two get some sleep, I’ll stay here with Grace.” Robin looked at me then at Roland who had slumped down with his head resting on Robin’s leg. He scooped Roland up in his arms and leaned down to kiss me.
“Good night dear.” I smiled.
“Good night.” I watched them leave the room for the second time that evening. Once they disappeared I turned my attention back to the sleeping girl. I stroked her hair and rested my hand on her cheek. She was still so warm. I hurried to the kitchen to find the thermometer that had come in handy so many times when Henry was younger, and rushed back to Grace. I slipped the thermometer under her arm and waited for the beeping noise.
I hated that noise, because it always seemed to signal bad news. It beeped and I took it away from her arm to examine the results. 100.2, that wasn’t too bad, not anything to worry about. I grabbed one of the rags and placed it on her forehead. I took another and ran the damp cloth over her neck and arms. I set my phone to alert me every hour so I could check her temperature and keep an eye on it. Then I rested my head against the couch and closed my eyes. I could see the little girl, who had fallen into my garden all those years ago, in my head. Her big, pleading eyes. It amazed me how strong she was at such a young age, independent too. She reminded me of myself. I was so deeply lost in thought that I almost didn’t hear the first alarm go off. I grabbed the thermometer and checked her temp. This is time it read 100.4, but I still wasn’t too worried. She was banged up pretty bad. I took her hand in mine and stroked it. The next few hours resulted in small changes in temperature, sometimes up and sometimes down. However at 4:00am when I checked again her temp had shot up to 105.2! I leaped from the floor and ran upstairs to my room. Robin was passed out on the bed. I rushed to him and shook him awake.
“Robin, Robin wake up!” His eyes flashed open.
“What’s wrong?” his voice was groggy with sleep.
“Grace. Her fever shot up to 105!!!” Fear crossed Robins face as he sat up in the bed.
“We need to get her to the hospital now.” I nodded and flew down the stairs with Robin right behind me. He scooped her up and we dashed out the door.