“Aunt Regina?” she hears, wiping the traitorous tear from her cheek.
Regina has told herself for years now, five to be exact, not to feel the stab of pain every time she has to say her niece’s name. Tells herself that, but it never gets any easier.
They’d both thought it was a good idea at the time, she and Zelena, while they were standing over his coffin. In the midst of her torturous heartbreak, when nothing made sense or felt fair, she thought it’d be a beautiful tribute to her Robin and his sacrifice.
It took Regina all of four days to realize that hearing her obliterated soulmate’s name every day spill from Zelena’s lips was too hard. Found herself seldomly being able to say the girl’s name, rarely uses it in fact.
She’s tried different nicknames over the years, even convinced her sister to at least spell the baby’s name with a “y” to give her some distinction.
Eventually she had to do as she always does and be the strong one. Accept that her heart would break a little bit inside each time the girl’s name was muttered.
She’d forever look over her shoulder with heart stopping anticipation each time she heard someone else say the name. Robin.
Today, though, today is hard.
It’s been five years exactly since her Robin gave his life to save her and his daughter.
Five years since he begged the god of death himself to use his crystal on him instead. Five years since her entire life turned upside down and she was once again kicked in the teeth - left sobbing over his lifeless body after Zelena and everyone else left her to mourn on her own in her office.
It’s warm out today, and she finds herself sitting under the apple tree in her backyard as Robyn runs around.
It’s a tradition she’s created for herself. Every year on the anniversary of this terrible day, she sits under her tree, searching for solace and comfort as she reads The Adventures of Robin Hood.
She usually reads a tale or two to Robyn, but today the girl is off chasing butterflies, leaving Regina alone with her book and her thoughts.
The little blue eyed girl calling her name, however, pulls Regina from her introspection.
Looking up at her niece, she smiles warmly, closing the book in her lap and opening her arms to let the girl fall into her embrace.
“What’s wrong?” Robyn asks innocently, always so concerned for others - a trait she so clearly inherited from her father.
Regina tells her it’s nothing, but Robyn is quick to not believe her. She asks Regina if she’s sad because today is daddy’s day.
Tears welling up in her eyes, she hugs the girl tighter and whispers out a strangled yes, baby into her ear.
Robyn twists her little body to face Regina, placing her hand on her cheek to wipe away her fresh tear before it reaches the scar on her lip.
“But I’ll be okay.”
Robyn, always so aware of Regina’s moods and feelings, asks if her daddy is the reason Regina never calls her by her name.
She’s always resorted to calling her “baby” or some other affectionate name, letting Zelena be the one to call her by her name. She never thought Robyn had noticed though.
Stunned, she looks down at the girl, pushing her blonde locks from her eyes.
“What do you mean, sweetheart?”
Robyn goes on, saying with all the five year old wisdom she can muster, that Regina only calls her “baby” and “sweetheart” but never by her real name.
Taking a deep breath and blinking her tears away, Regina decides to be the strong one once again.
She tells the little girl that saying her daddy’s name is just too hard for her sometimes.
It slices through her gut and takes a piece of her soul with it each time, in fact, but she won’t tell her that.
“Because you loved him so much?”
Letting out a wet chuckle, she nods, saying, “Yes, exactly.”
In that moment, the quiet is interrupted by a bird chirping out a melodious tune.
“A robin!” Robyn squeals, pushing herself from her aunt’s lap. The girl has always had a fascination with nature, yet another undeniable trait formed from her father’s genetics, and has always had a certain love for birds. “Look Aunt Regina!”
Turning her misty eyes heavenward, she sees a beautiful, orange chested robin perched on a branch above them.
Smiling to herself over the irony of a robin, of all the birds possible, showing up in this moment.
“I know!” Robyn shouts excitedly, running back to kneel in front of Regina. “My name is Robyn, and that birdie’s a robin,” she says, pointing up in the bird’s direction, “so you can call me Birdie!”
The girl giggles, covering her mouth in the adorable way she does, dimples popping out on her cheeks.
Regina smiles, remembering another set of dimples that always seemed to calm her nerves and ease her fears.
She sighs, watching the little bird take flight. A lump forms in her throat as she turns her eyes down to meet the gaze of her soulmate’s daughter once again, this little girl that she loves so much despite the pain she feels when she hears her name.
Birdie. It’s a nice alternative, cute even, and something Regina can see herself getting use to.
She smiles one last time as Birdie picks up the book about her father and strums through the pages, fingertips dancing across the illustrations of Robin.
“Birdie.” She smiles, tears gathering in her eyes one more time. “I like that.”