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Srebrna, Skald Arkadii (and thoughts on writing)

Archive for August 2017

Splinters 29: Since the morning that we came

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The next morning they all looked rather bleary – except for Henry, obviously. Henry was as lively as possible, making all three of them wince from time to time, as they sat waiting for their coffees to cool down to drinkable temperature.

“Lovely little gentleman you have here” an elderly man in a worker’s overalls said approvingly from the next booth, raising his cup of tea in greeting. “What is his name?”

Henry knelt on the seat and held his hand out.

“I’m Henry Swan. These are my mother and my aunts. And you are?”

The man put the cup carefully away and grasped the offered hand.

“My name is Marco, Henry. Very nice to meet you. Are you staying in Storybrooke, or just passing through?”

A thickset, bearded man from next booth made a rude noise.

“Who cares. One more brat in the town, one less, no difference. All they do is make noise and bother people.”

“Leroy, manners. The ladies here are new in the town, you’re giving Storybrooke bad image.”

“I’d rather have them out of here, and taking the noisemaker with them. Man can’t drink his coffee in peace.”

Marco smiled sadly.

“I’d give anything to have one just like him. All my life, I… Well, he was not meant to be.”

Emma and Elena exchanged quick glances and Elena pulled her notebook to check the descriptions surreptitiously. She nodded minutely.

Marco looked at his cup again.

“Well, young Henry. Be good to your mother and I hope I’ll see you around the town.”

Leroy only snorted, covering his face with the newspaper.

Granny slapped him with a rolled-up one, passing by.

“Get some manners or get out. And take your shoes off my cushions.”

He got up grumbling, slurped the last of his coffee rather obnoxiously loudly and walked out, passing the booth where Henry and his family sat.

“I’m getting out, no worries. And you, sisters, will be better off if you get out of this town, and take the snotnose here with you.”

Henry blinked and looked at the man as he exited the diner.

“He’s really grumpy, isn’t he?” he asked in a surprised, but clear voice, easily heard in all of the booths around them – and probably outside, too. A wave of snickers and giggles made Emma’s face burn red and she pulled him down to sit properly on the bench.

Ruby sauntered up to their table, bearing plates of food and a mug of chocolate for Henry.

“You all look like you’ve had too much fun yesterday” she said, unloading the breakfast. “Which is all kinds of unfair, considering you were all down and snoring next to no time after checking in. If you feel like you’ve partied the day before, the least the life could do is offer some entertainment to go along the pain.”

Emma smiled weakly and nodded.

“I feel as if someone had set up a hammering workshop in my brain. We will eat, take some painkillers and re-evaluate that novel idea of a hangover without a drinking, thank you” she rubbed her forehead. “It must be all the driving we did yesterday and then the storm which was on exactly as Elena found Roland. If this doesn’t go away, is there a doctor in the town who could give us something stronger?”

Ruby smiled widely.

“We have even a whole hospital. And doctor Whale is dealing with so many different cases in this town, he should be able to find something even for a killer headache.”

Elsa squinted and sighed, sipping her icy mocha.

“I hope so, because we need to pull ourselves together a bit” she said tiredly. “If we’re going to be staying, we’ll need a better living solution than B&B – however lovely it is, Granny, of course” she smiled at the older woman. “But we can’t stay in one room for more than a few days.”

“Don’t worry, Elsie. I’m sure there are enough places around the town to fit all four of you” Ruby quickly adopted calling the sisters by their pet names. “There is some property you can rent – or buy, if you’d be staying longer – and if you need more than a flat, there are even some houses on the edge of the forest, just outside the town. Owners moved out and there were no buyers, so they still are on the market, who knows why.”

The sisters exchanged glances, but Henry chose this moment to try to chase up his tomato sandwich with a big swallow of cocoa and started hiccoughing, making disgusting noises and giggling like a loon in between hiccups, so Emma escorted him out of the diner and let him breathe in peace.

The meeting with the school headmistress was a surprising event. The gregarious, smiling woman was not the type of personality Emma usually linked with that position and it took her a while to accept that all her senses were confirming the lady was for real.

“I see” Miss Blanchard tapped the school report from Boston and peeked at the doctor’s opinion. “So, for the time being Henry would be homeschooled, and you’d want to enrol him at the beginning of the next term?”

“That would be the best, yes. We’re not sure he gets better in Storybrooke, so I’d rather not make him start the school here if we have to move in two months. However if by the end of this term he seems to be improving, we’d like him to start lessons with other children in fall.”

“And you just moved here, like this? Dug up all rots in Boston, left friends behind?”

“Well, we do have Henry’s best interest as our priority, so yes. With no hesitation.”

“I hope you and your husband can find something to do around here, but the town is rather small, so it may be a challenge.”

Emma sighed.

“I don’t have a husband. And I’m quite sure I can work something out, as long as Henry’s happy here.”

The woman behind the desk gasped and covered her mouth with her hand.

“So sorry! You said ‘we’ and I assumed…”

“Me and my sisters. We raise Henry together” Emma allowed herself to smile, economically.

“Sisters! How lucky! I always wanted to have a sister!” the headmistress had the most infectious smile, once she let it be seen and was not covering it with her hand. “How many do you have?”

Her eyes were shining with innocent excitement, so Emma finally smiled fully.

“Two. I mean, we’re triplets, so three altogether.”

“Triplets, wow…” she trailed off. “I remember someday dreaming about having a twin, just to make sure I have someone I’d be sure I will love…”

“Well, you’re welcome to one of mine” Emma smirked. “It gets cramped in a small apartment and we’ve been stuck at Granny’s for a day and we’re already getting on each other’s nerves. Do you want a sister, maybe? I can sell you one. Only slightly used.”

The headmistress snorted and started giggling uncontrollably.

“No, thank you, I’d rather have a new one, if I can get any. But I appreciate the offer! Now, as to the apartment, you need to contact Mr Gold, who manages most of the real estate here in the town. You tell him the requirements and he’ll whip up the offer for you. There’s even one place in my building – it’s an old factory construction, so the measurements of the flats are rather untraditional. You can get something quite normal, or a weird two-levels combination like mine. I don’t have a lot of space in the hall, but I do have an additional floor over the kitchen and there’s an actual full room there” she shrugged “Never used it for anything but storage, but it is cosy. Anyway, the flat I mentioned also belongs to Mr Gold, so you can just ask him about it – I’m quite sure you’ll love it. There is a bit of a park just nearby, a tiny playground, and a stream just a few steps from the building” she handed Emma the papers she filled in while talking. “Also, in case you needed help, I could assist you with homeschooling Henry. I have my own class of ten year olds, so I can probably find some stuff for a five year old to do.”

“It does seem a bit creepy. Like she wanted us to live nearby to have control of us or…”

“Well, I only got an honest, truthful vibe from her, all the time. It is possible that she is, in fact, a happy and helpful person.”

“Mary Margaret Blanchard” Elsa read the business card. “I’ll google her and see what we can dig up about her. Just in case.”

“Let’s see if she’s not listed as an axe murderer on some Wikipedia page. She’s just too sweet to be alive.”

“She doesn’t exist” Elsa sighed, pushing herself away from the keyboard. “No digital footprint at all. No Facebook account, no google account, no twitter – one that I could identify at least – no Instagram. Actually, Storybrooke is more or less an invisible town, too.”

“Probably, being a magical creature from another world, under a spell, she – like everyone else in town – is forced to avoid detection. Remember what August said, and what we’ve tested by ourselves – it’s hard to get here if you don’t know it’s here, right? So if someone posted anything about the town on the ‘net, people might start getting here by accident…”

“Protective part of the curse.”

“Well, we have to work out who she is without the internet. I just hope she is someone from the court, not a crazy witch from neighbouring kingdom.”

“One thing for sure, she is lonely. It looks as if she tried to make the connection to us by any means necessary. Seems desperate for company.”

“Well, from what August said, all ‘our’ side was supposed to be perfectly miserable, and our mother should be worst off” Emma sighed and sipped her tea. “So it can’t be her – and the description doesn’t match. Black hair yes, long hair no.”

“You do understand the general idea of cutting one’s hair, I hope?” Elena looked at her pointedly. “The fact that she has short hair may only mean she trimmed it.”

“But she’s not miserable enough.”

“That would depend on someone’s definition of ‘miserable’, really” Elsa pointed out. “Everyone has a different set of reasons to be miserable.”

“She has a good job, around a lot of kids – so if she’s the family lady August said, she’s ok – she has a nice flat in an area she does recommend to others. Doesn’t seem that bad.”

“But from what you’re saying, she’s lonely…” Elena mused.

“She seems really really lonely. Like she’s missing human contact even though she’s the headmistress. She couldn’t stop talking when I was there, and it was what, about 20 minutes.”

“Well, who would get friendly with their child’s school head?” Elsa provided. “Remember the guy from the primary school whose parents were some family of the headmaster? He had no life. It’s the same thing here, probably.”

Emma nodded slowly.

“Her position isolates her from the people around her, so she is around people, but…”


“OK, so, plan. We befriend her?”

“I suppose we should. Better be friendly with our own mother. And if she’s not” Elena shrugged “at least we get a friend out of it, whoever she is. And if she’s an evil axe murdering witch, then at least we’ll get on her good side before she gets her memories back.”

“Basically, we want to get on everyone’s good side before we confirm who is who and/or they regain their memories.”

“That means we have to be on our best behaviour” Elsa warned. “No hitting people with your bo staff.”

“And no going full lawyer on them without reason. Someone may die of fright if you do this unexpectedly, and how would you explain to our mother the fact that her favourite maid is missing? Or why the kingdom has one smith less now?”

Emma couldn’t sleep, despite being tired to the bone. She waited quietly until Henry was snoring, arms around his bear, and slipped out of her room, down to the lobby of B&B.

Granny was sitting in a deep, slightly shabby armchair, knitting something grey and fluffy, peeking at a tiny TV set over her needles.

“Do you need anything?” she asked, not pausing her knitting. “Is there anything missing in the room?”

Emma shrugged and smiled.

“Not really, no. Thank you. Just can’t sleep, so I thought I’d stretch my legs and maybe make some tea, if I could?”

“Sure, sure. There’s a kettle behind the counter and a tin with tea bags next to it. Mugs are on the bottom shelf. If you could make enough for two, that would be nice, too.”

“And now you’re using guests to make tea for you?” Ruby appeared from some room inside the ground floor. “Really?”

“Well, with you out all the time, how else is an old woman going to get her tea, missy?”

Ruby shrugged and wrapped her hair with a lacy red scarf.

“The same way you’d be getting it if I was in Boston, like I planned.”

“Well, I’m so sorry my health issues stopped you from…”

Emma coughed suggestively and the two women fell silent, looking at her with embarrassment.

“Which one would it be, Granny? Earl Grey, or…?”

“There should be some plain black there, if you could. Thank you, Emma.”

“Emma” a male voice said. “What a lovely name.”

They all turned, Granny stuck in her deep chair, looking at the man in surprise.

“Ruby” Granny said with a slight nod towards the counter.

The younger woman darted behind the check-in desk and grabbed a roll of banknotes stashed there.

“It’s all here” she said breathlessly, handing it to the man.

He smiled, thin lips stretching into a slight grin.

“Of course it is, dearie. How could it be otherwise. I see your grandmother is trusting you with more… important tasks nowadays. How could an old woman live without someone to help her…” he mused, pocketing the money.

Ruby withdrew her hand as if burnt.

“You enjoy your stay… Emma” he gave her a symbolic nod.

“We sure will” she managed to answer, slightly stuttering, as the man’s whole figure radiated some kind of menace that made her ‘spidey sense’ go on full red alert. He wasn’t lying, as such, but his whole person felt somehow false.

“We?” he turned back towards her from the door he had just opened.

“Well, my sisters and me. We’ll be staying here for a while.”

He… blinked. Suddenly the feeling of slimy menace retreated, replaced with honest surprise.

“Your sisters?”

“Yes, my sisters” she smiled, drinking in his unease. “Elena and Elsa. They are upstairs, I just couldn’t sleep, so…”

He shuddered slightly, as if shaking off something on his shoulder.

“Really. Two sisters. How nice for you…” he seemed somewhat lost in the conversation.

“Oh yes” she smiled widely. “There’s nothing better than family.”

His face went rigid and he turned without a word, shutting the door behind him with a thud.

Ruby and Granny jumped slightly at the sound. Emma finally switched the kettle on and the hissing made them look in her direction.

“Who was that?” she asked, dropping the bags into prepared mugs.

“Mr Gold” Ruby provided, walking to the nearest window and peeking though it towards the street. “He owns this place.”

“This one? The inn?”

Granny grimaced.

“More like the town.”

She made a few more angry stitches on her needles and dropped them in a large workbasket sitting next to her chair.

“So… how is that tea coming on? I probably need something to pick me up now.”

“And then you will be complaining you’re to keyed up to sleep” Ruby snorted and fixed her shawl again.

“It’s better than being too drunk to walk straight” the older woman commented under her nose, as her granddaughter opened the door.

“I heard that!”

“You were supposed to!”

Silence fell as Emma handed Granny her mug and they both waited for the tea to steep a bit.

“She’s been like this since her parents went missing” Granny finally blurted out. “I’m worried for her, but I can’t really stop her from going out. At least it means she’s in the town, and not on some crazy road trip out to Canada or somewhere. If she parties in town, either she gets back by herself, or that cute sheriff brings her back. If I press too much, she may just as well try to go to Boston or somewhere else, like she said, and I’d probably never see her again.”

Emma pursed her lips.

I wonder if it’s even possible for them to leave the town. Roland did, but he never got anywhere close to other people, so he didn’t actually leave, so it may not count…

“We’ve seen a lot of kids reacting to losing their parents in a destructive way. I suppose it’s no different for grownups.”

Granny sighed.

“She was fifteen when it happened. It’s been eating at her ever since.”

“At least she has you” Emma said and sipped her tea.

“Yes, that she does. I suppose you three didn’t have that much, right?”

Emma nodded and smiled thinly.

They sat in silence for a moment.

“What are you watching?”

Granny smiled with some embarrassment and turned the sound up a bit.

“A crime show. Midsomer Murders. It’s nice to listen to that accent, you know. And it isn’t fast, like all the CSIs, with the car chases and computer hacking. Easier to follow for an old woman.”

Emma moved a chair to see the screen better.

“Would you mind me watching it for a bit with you?”

Granny stared at her over the rim of her glasses.

“Not at all, dear. Not at all.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/08/16 at 23:12

Posted in Splinters

Tagged with , , , , ,

Splinters 28: Peace the evening brings

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All three kept to mundane remarks until they were safely lodged in the largest suite of rooms the B&B sported and Henry was again asleep, teeth brushed and shower, for once, skipped.

“So…” Elsa’s voice rose in a slightly questioning tone.

“That would be our step-grandmother” Elena provided flatly.

Emma sat heavily, mug of tea in front of her.

“What about the kid?” she asked, fingers worrying the table runner edge.

“Unknown” Elsa shrugged. “But August couldn’t have known everyone in the whole kingdom. He doesn’t even have to be from the court, if what she’s saying is correct.”

“Sure” Emma agreed. “But it complicates things.”

“Why? It’s not like we were planning to kill her… By the way, I think she’s worried about something” Elena leaned back on the couch. “Did you see how panicked she was? And she was actually rather, may I say, friendly. For an Evil Queen.”

Emma sipped her tea.

“I think it’s because of Henry” she suggested finally. “It was, well, a connection. Some common base. She has a kid, we have a kid. She’s a single mother, we’re a female family with a kid and no guy. She’s having problems with Roland, with him running away and looking for his father, and I’m sure she guesses we have problems with Henry, too.”

The all nodded slowly, each picking up her mug.

“So, what do we do tomorrow?” Elena took out her notepad and pencil.

“We must identify our family. We have August’s descriptions and we know they will be in some miserable situation.”

Elsa pursed her lips and shook her head.

“Actually, the next step should be to find ourselves something to do in the town, establish ourselves” she said slowly. “Not that I don’t want to look for your parents, but if we spend a day or two making a real effort and, well, giving everyone a proper, innocent reason for us being here, we can then work out things faster. If we have to make up a new reason each day for why we aren’t leaving, it will take much more time in total.”

Elena sipped her cocoa.

“However much I’d like to do something now, Elsa does have a valid point. If we show we’re here to stay, they will not question our search… We can cover this by, well, anything. Job hunt. Flat search. We could be looking for a tutor for Henry.”

“Poor little Henry, ordered by the doctor to leave the big city…” Elsa mused. “We may work from that, start by visiting the hospital to check with them what would be the best section of the city to rent a flat, the school to register him as home-schooled but with option to join classes after the next term starts, all the shops to buy stuff before our things get shipped here…”

“And I can take Henry to visit Roland tomorrow” Emma rose to put her cup on the shelf. “I’ll ask Regina if he can go with us to the playground. I saw one in the park. If she decides he can’t go with us alone, even better. If she is the Evil Queen – and everything matches, even the scar on her lip – I need to find out what she knows, if I can. Or at least I can get some bonding time in over the kids before she knows what we are about. We should get on her good side, if she has any – and looking at Roland, I think she does, actually.”

“I’ll ask Ruby if she knows about any vacancies we could fill. Or maybe I could volunteer at school for after-class activities? We’ll make a schedule of who is at home, who is “working” and who is socialising. I have to be online mostly during the working hours, but the two of you work when you want, so we can split it any way we need. This way there will always be one of us at home for Henry and the other two can be out there, looking for clues or being sociable or whatever.”

“I’ll go and visit the sheriff” Elsa offered. “As the local law enforcement, he may be a good point to start, and I may be able to get him to talk if I play the lawyer card well.”

Emma nodded and pulled out her own notepad.

“I made a list of who we’re looking for first. Of course we need to locate Geppetto, just to let August know he’s OK. We need to find our parents. We already have the Queen. Who else?”

“The dwarves. Snow White was helped by seven dwarves.”

“And there should be some court members, August said there were at least twenty people.”

Emma flipped the right page open.

“Yes. There was the Blue Fairy, but I doubt we can identify her by her size now. There was someone called “Red”, apparently standard human sized, so we have a chance – she wore a red cape, but I somehow doubt she’d be running around in one here and now. And there was Red’s grandmother. No idea why she is so important that she got included into the Council, but we have her on the list. There were some other nobles whom August could not describe in enough details, which is just peachy, because we frigging need them.”

“Useless” Elena looked up from her laptop. “The ones that August did describe are either useless, because they probably look like standard humans now, or too generic and too many people will match the description. But, actually, what you said makes me think we can find one of them immediately. And she may be very important, and useful. Red, the one you mentioned.”

Emma sat closer to her.

“Red? Why Red?”

“She was Snow’s best friend. She was brought into the castle and whatnot, despite the fact that she lived in the forest all her life – so she was, basically, a peasant. And she always wore red. Not only the cape, actually, all red. And she was dark-haired. Now, who did we meet in the last hours who matches this description?”

Elsa’s eyebrows went up.

“You’re saying Ruby is your mother’s BFF? Do you think the relationship might have survived despite the curse, so we can make use of it and track down the others?”

Emma shrugged.

“She’s a waitress and a barmaid. Everyone talks to the waitresses, so it may be a challenge to work out who is our mother in the crowd – even if their relationship survived.”

“And as you said, Red had a grandmother, a formidable lady who shoot the crossbow quite neatly” Elena continued reading from her database.

“Granny, even if without a crossbow. I could totally see her using one on some rowdier clients, mind you” Elsa fell silent and then frowned “So we have a red-dressed young woman and her grandmother. What do you think is the ending to this story?”

“I’m wondering why August didn’t see that link – at least he never mentioned it.”

Emma shrugged.

“Maybe it’s one of these way off from ‘reality’ – so our version doesn’t really match the events from Enchanted Forest.”

“Also, there is no big Disney movie for that one. And once he was in the orphanage, he might have been too old for nursery stories, so he just simply missed it completely.”

“I wonder if she has a basket.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/08/15 at 23:10

Posted in Splinters