Henry sat in his “fort” hugging his book of fairytales and tried to figure out where it all went wrong. When he’d first read the book everything had seemed so simple. Find his mom, bring her to Story Brooke, break the curse, and live happily ever after.
Now, the curse was broken and his mom was here, but there didn’t seem to be a happily ever after for them because the Enchanted Forest was gone, none of them could leave Story Brooke without losing themselves and everything was just a mess. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, this wasn’t how fairytales played out. There was supposed to be a happily ever after.
He was so busy fighting his tears and his misery that he didn’t realize he wasn’t alone anymore until the girl was right next to him.
“Who are you? How did you find me?” He was instantly suspicious of her, as it seemed that everyone was out to get him these days.
“Well, my name is Chloe and what makes you think I was looking for you? Who are you?” He could tell from her tone her last question was a bit mocking, but to be polite he answered anyway.
“I’m Henry and the only reason anyone comes here anymore is to look for me.” Which in and of itself was a sad statement about his life that people kept having to come find him. Not to mention that fact that they seemed to always know where to find him, maybe he should move his fort somewhere new, where no one would ever look.
“Maybe that was true before the curse broke but I think everyone will agree things are different now.” Boy was that an understatement, looking at her more closely he tried to place her. She was around his age, with bright honey brown hair and green eyes. He didn’t remember seeing her around town and he didn’t remember her from the book either. Shouldn’t she have been in his class with him, even under the curse everyone had been around just not in the way they should have been.
Thinking of the book he looked down at it gripped tightly in his hands like just seeing the cover would tell him who she was. He didn’t like not knowing, by now after months and months of study and deductive reasoning he’d been able to work out who nearly everyone in town was supposed to be, why couldn’t he place her?
“I’m not in there so you can stop glaring at it like it betrayed you or something. I was never that interesting or important, never warranted so much as a footnote. Just the daughter of someone who wouldn’t have even been named let alone talked about in those pages. Now that we got that out of the way, why don’t you tell me why you’re out here crying your eyes out all alone?” She looked genuinely concerned, with a sigh he relented under her steady gaze. Maybe she could help. Someone had to eventually right, that was the way life worked. You tried and you tried until one day everything clicked and it all worked out for the best. Like when Snow and Charming met on the bridge, and everything changed for them both.
“Everything’s all wrong! I thought when the curse broke we would all go home and… and…” He held up the book like it would finish the sentence he couldn’t.
“And you could live the life you saw in the book? The life you think you should have had?” He nodded, finally someone understood! This wasn’t supposed to be his life, he wasn’t supposed to be here. He was supposed to grow up in the Enchanted Forest surrounded by magic in a place where make believe was real and the cold harsh reality of this world was only a story.
“Well, I just have one question. Was the life you ended up with so terrible?” She didn’t understand at all. Dejected he looked down at his lap not able to meet her eyes for his confession.
“Yes! I was adopted by the Evil Queen.” It was his not so secret shame, he was raised by a villain.
“I know, I think the whole town knows that now, but was she ever Evil to you? Did she ever hurt you?” She didn’t even look at him as she spoke, like the questions and his answers to them didn’t matter. Like it wasn’t important.
“No, but everyone else sa-” He didn’t even get to finish his speech about good versus evil and how his adopted mother was the queen of all evil.
He was beginning to get the feeling that he wasn’t in control of this conversation, and that it wasn’t really a conversation at all. He began to understand what August was talking about when he told his mom that ‘we need to talk’ really meant ‘I need to tell you something and you need to just shut up and listen because I’m right and you’re you, you pitiful simple man’. Apparently that was a universal girl thing, who knew?
“Have their reasons for being angry with her, but we’re not talking about them now are we? What did she do to you?” She was looking at him now, and oh how he wished she wasn’t. Her very expression just seemed to scream that he was an idiot for not being able to follow a simple conversation.
Had she ever done anything evil to him? Of course she had; plenty of things, he just needed to pick something from what was sure to be a long list of horrors.
Deciding that there was no shame in retreat against a superior opponent he decided to just answer her question so that this conversation could end. When he had first started talking to her he thought that she would be his one person, like in the story book. Everyone in the Enchanted Forest had that one person who could always talk them around a problem until they found their perfect solution and now when he was at his lowest here she was. But no, she just wanted to talk about the Evil Queen.
Henry had to think about it for a minute, which shocked him. She was The Evil Queen the reasons should just flow out of his mouth. In every story about her she couldn’t walk into a room without something unpleasant happening because of her, and he’d been in the same house with her his entire life.
“When the curse ended she abducted me.” There! That was definitely evil, an answer that would surely end this conversation that he wasn’t sure he wanted to be a part of anymore. He had wanted someone to listen to him but now he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t have been better off venting to a wall. At least the wall would listen to him.
“She may have reacted badly, done the wrong thing, but she was reacting to losing you not to the breaking of the curse. You were leaving her all alone and she loved you and didn’t want to just watch you walk away and out of her life. Also if you’ll remember right when she realized how unhappy you were she let you go didn’t she? I don’t know how much you know about the bad guys but they don’t generally let you go just because you asked them to.” She had let him go, not even an hour after she’d taken him. If someone un-did a bad thing they’d done, before anyone really got hurt, should the bad thing still be held against them?
He decided to push that aside for later, it was making his brain itch.
“Yeah, but she … put me under a sleep spell.” Her signature evil move, it was even in the book as something she was known for, if you were known for doing something so bad then you were obviously not a good person. Never again would he eat an apple anything voluntarily, especially if it was anywhere near his mom. Bring on the doctors’ apples were evil.
“The way I heard it around town that curse wasn’t meant for you at all and she cried by your bedside for hours. Next.” He began to realize he was losing this… whatever it was. It wasn’t an argument because she wasn’t arguing but it was most definitely something. He couldn’t even retreat, if he did she would win automatically. She was wrong and he would prove it.
“She enacted the curse in the first place!” Defend that!
“That was nearly thirty years ago, before you were even born, heck it was before your mother could even crawl. Pay attention, we’re still focusing on you. What else?” Her tone was soft like she was starting to think he wasn’t all there. He was starting to think the same thing, why couldn’t he think of anything?
“When I found my real mom she punished me.” Which was so unfair, evil mom’s shouldn’t punish people just for finding their mother.
“That was because you ran off without so much as a note to tell her where you were and worried her half to death, evil would have been if she didn’t care about your safety, then you waltz back in and tell her that not only do you hate her but that you’re replacing her. Got anything else?” Again with the tone.
“Do you have answers to justify everything she’s done?” He was beginning to think that she did. Maybe she was evil too. She never did tell him who she was, just that he wouldn’t find her in the book. Plus how did she know so much about the why’s and how’s for everything he mentioned.
“You have answers to vilify everything, I’m just playing devil’s advocate, you should try it sometime it’s quite fun.” She was smiling now like they were sharing a private joke, when this whole thing was so far from funny.
“Devil’s right!” That statement got him a look which clearly said such a thing was beneath him, and unfortunately she was right, it was. “How do you know so much anyway? Do you work for her!” She had to work for his mother how else could she have gotten it all so wrong. She was wrong! She had to be, evil didn’t love, it couldn’t, she couldn’t. If she could she never would have put the curse on everyone in the first place. She never would have ruined everything.
“I may not be book worthy, but that doesn’t make me stupid and I have been here awhile and you and your family aren’t exactly the quiet types when you don’t like something. You’re nearly always one step away from shouting in the streets. Plus, dude, I’m ten I don’t work for anyone.”
“Sorry.” What else could he say? He was starting to listen to himself and some of the things he said were beginning to sound a bit paranoid. Not that he wasn’t justified in his paranoia but still.
“So what you’re saying is that she isn’t evil?” Time for her to be on the other end of this see how she likes answering questions that don’t really seem to have an answer. Henry was sure he’d found the perfect question to stump her with, she could play devil’s advocate all she wanted but in the end she did have to have an opinion of her own and he knew she would agree with him. She had to, it was a fact of life that the Evil Queen was evil.
“No I’m saying that before you cut her out of your life completely maybe you should look at both sides of things, not just the one you want to be right. Yes, your birth mother is here now, but she didn’t come looking for you, Henry, you had to go find her and trick her into coming here. Then you practically had to force her to stay. Yes, she had her own reasons for wanting to go, but have you actually looked at why she was so eager to drop you off and run for the hills?”
“So what now my mother’s the evil one? I knew it! You work for Regina, this is all a trick!” She must be working for mom, everyone knows that the Charmings are the good guys and his mother is their daughter, she was inherently good.
“No, I’m saying there is no good or evil not in the real world, only choices, consequences, and reasons. Things that sometimes don’t make sense right away but in hindsight it all falls into place, even if it’s a place you don’t want to look. You’ve examined Regina under a microscope declaring her every action good or bad, have you done the same to Emma? If you haven’t then why not? Do you think it’s unfair, how could it be unfair for one but fair for the other?
“In books and stories it’s easy to see who should win and who should lose, but in real life, in the day to day, it’s a bit more complicated. Half of writing a story is deciding the truth, not everything makes it onto the pages, just look at me. I was obviously there but you won’t find me in that book anywhere I wasn’t worth writing about so not one word was wasted on my existence, does that mean I don’t exist, of course not it just means that the author decided not to waste his time or yours with something that didn’t matter to the story that was being told. I didn’t change the outcome so I didn’t matter.
“Every day we make thousands of choices and each choice we make leads to another decision and another choice after that. The other side of that though is that every decision we make, every choice we choose, has both a reason for that choice and a consequence for making it. If you want to truly understand someone, to fairly judge them, then look first on the reason behind the choice, then the other options they decided not to take knowing that reason, then the consequences of the choice they eventually made, not the other way around.
“You’ve started at the consequences, made your way back to the choice, then you just stopped without ever looking at the rest of it. You’re looking at everything through the eyes of a story where you see the end result and maybe a little of the middle but not the beginning not what drives that person not what made them who they are now. To be fair and just, which from our talk is what I think you’re aiming for, you need to look at your own experiences with Regina and stop thinking about the past, especially a past that you weren’t part of. If you had been a part of Regina’s life in the Enchanted Forest would she have made the same choice she did without you? Because I don’t think she would. The story you’ve read is amazing, yes, but it’s not finished yet. Finish it, learn the beginning and write the ending.”
“Why what difference does that make?” Even if he wasn’t a part of the past everyone else shared that didn’t change anything. Regina was still the same person who made those choices, she was still the evil queen even if she wasn’t evil towards him.
“Well, let’s look at the side of good for a minute, okay? Ruby is a wonderful person, loyal, protective, kind, but she also ate the love of her life before she knew she was a wolf and learned control. Cinderella made a deal with Rumpelstiltskin to go to a party where she met her own prince charming and in exchange she had to give up her first born, only she didn’t know that would be the price until after the wedding. Or even Doc Hopper, who’s so loyal to Gepeto and has been trying to help you as best he can, but his loyalty stems from his guilt for causing Gepeto to lose his family.” She was ticking them off with her fingers as she spoke, and it looked like she could keep going for hours.
“What’s your point?” He already knew all of this, it was in the book, but when he’d read them they had been just stories, only words on a page now that she said them out loud they sounded horrible and kind of evil.
“My point is everyone in this town has done something they regret. The only thing that sets Ruby or Cinderella apart from Regina or Rumpelstiltskin is that you know the reasons behind their actions, their excuses and for you that excuses them. You knew they never meant to hurt anyone so that kept them good in your mind.”
“So?” They were good, and hurting someone on accident shouldn’t be held against anyone. What Regina had done was deliberate, she’d planned it out, the curse was completely on purpose.
“So, what were Regina’s reasons? Why did she make the choices that she did, what started it all? Do you even know? Moreover, do you even care enough to ask? If knowing the full story behind a seemingly evil act can change it from evil to tragic then what could knowing the whole story about the curse change it to. Maybe you’re right, maybe Regina is irredeemable and what she did should define her for the rest of her life, but what if you’re wrong? What if what you don’t know is the one thing you really need to know?”
“Emma is my mother and she doesn’t want me talking to Regina.” That statement was met with a sigh so heartfelt and full of patience he nearly wanted to take it back rather than hear her reply. He’d wanted help, answers, and he was getting that, they just weren’t the answers he thought he’d find.
“Look, Emma is a good woman, but just because she stayed finally that doesn’t make her a saint and the things Regina, your mom, did to other people shouldn’t make her the bad guy in your eyes. It isn’t that automatic. Or at least it shouldn’t be if you really are a good person.”
“Regina isn’t my mom! And I am a good person!” How could she even say that? He was a Charming, inherently good, just like his mother Emma.
“For ten years she was the only mom you had, heck she was the only anything you had. For the first ten years of your life she was your mom, your world, she stayed up with you when you were sick; she taught you everything you needed to know to become who you are now. Every ounce of goodness in you, in some part, came from her.She was there for every birthday, every Christmas. She took care of you and blood or no, that doesn’t just disappear because you think it should.
“You were willing to defy everyone for Emma, why should Regina be any different. The good people you want to be like, the people in that book you’re holding so tightly, the truly good ones always do what’s right not just what’s easy. So what’s the right thing to do now?”
“What am I supposed to do? Just go back to her? Live with her again? Turn my back on everyone else?” He couldn’t do that. Why didn’t she understand? He had people now, he had a mother and grandparents, people who loved him and wanted him. He couldn’t betray them by going behind their backs to their enemy. He couldn’t.
“Just, talk to her. Ask her all those questions rolling around in that head of yours, she’s the only one with those answers you’re really looking for. When you’ve done that come back here and we’ll talk about what comes next.” With that she was up and walking away. How would she even know when to come back? Or even that he would do what she said? Oh, well, he’d try and figure her out later for now it looked like he was going home.