Good Morning, Miss Australia
Chapter 4: Lost
"Just sit down and make yourself comfortable. You know where the living room is."
The front door was barely open and a wineglass was being pressed into Belle's hands before she'd even stepped inside. Belle reflexively grabbed the glass as Ariel quickly dashed back to her tiny kitchenette.
"Is everything alright?" Belle called after her friend. An arm waving at her with a spatula from behind the wall acknowledged her.
"Everything's under control," assured Ary and although Belle doubtfully lifted her eyebrows she decided to leave her friend to her cooking. Instead she put down the wineglass and shrugged out of her coat.
Tonight was what the two friends had dubbed 'girl's night', meaning that Belle traditionally came over to Ary's place on Saturday evening after she was done helping her father at the flower stand. On girl's night they ate, laughed, watched feel-good movies and drank cheap wine (or the ridiculously sweet cocktails Ary made).
Ariel lived in a small apartment over a distinguished men's fashion shop that her father had deemed suitable for a young lady living on her own. He was a wealthy man of Greek descent who had made his fortune in the shipowning business and he was very protective of his daughters.
It was a good place he'd picked though. Whenever Belle visited with Ary she always made sure to cast a look into the window display, enjoying the calm, classic elegance of the clothing and the interior.
Tonight she'd spotted a deep red poinsettia among the well-tailored suits and it had brought a faint smile to her lips as she pressed Ary's doorbell. Santa Claus was coming to town.
Belle nestled on the creaky sofa, wineglass in hand, and stared at the flowers on the coffee table before her. They were past their glorious peak, wilting in their vase but still beautiful in a lush, 17th century still life kind of way. The librarian suspected they were a gift from Eric who had visited his Ariel last weekend. The bouquet looked like it had been bought at a filling station and a smile tugged at Belle's lips as she pictured the man rushing for Portland to meet his girlfriend only to realize that he'd forgotten to bring her a present, while passing the city borders.
Belle took a small sip from her glass and turned to lean over the back of the sofa with an enigmatic look on her face. It was time for a casual announcement. "I spoke with him again."
The message had the desired effect. Immediately, Ary's head appeared from around the corner, eyes wide. "You what?!"
The librarian hummed something indiscernible in her glass of wine while Ary flopped into a rickety chair, dinner on the stove immediately forgotten. "Tell me everything there is to know!"
"What about dinner?" Belle inquired after the sound of pots boiling on the stove. Ary made an impatient hand gesture.
"Not important right now. I know you like your veggies burned. Now tell me! Why didn't you tell me earlier?"
"I wanted to yesterday, but you were so busy that I thought…"
Ary violently shook her head. "No, no thinking next time Bells. You just pull out that phone and let me know immediately, you hear?"
Belle pulled the face of a child caught with its hand in the cookie tin at Ary's mock sternness.
"Now," Ary leaned forward eagerly. "Was he glad to hear your voice again?"
After three weeks the archivist had come to anticipate Belle's mysterious Sleepless coming back around almost as much as Belle did.
Belle's blue eyes shone with an unmistakably dreamy expression as she thought back of her early morning talk with Mr. Scotsman the previous day and how his voice had nestled with renewed freshness in her memory.
"Yes," she admitted with a sheepish smile. "Though he was already up and awake."
Ary amusedly lifted her eyebrow. "You don't say. A true Sleepless in Seattle, like I said."
Belle rolled her eyes at her. "His son had a field trip day. And clearly he had some trouble getting up. There was the odd parental admonishment during our conversation. Actually, he threatened to drop his son off at school in his pyjamas."
Though Mr. Scotsman had lowered the phone, she'd been able to follow everything that had been said. And had been very surprised by the thickening of his accent while he woke up his son. She couldn't deny that the throaty sound had caused her heart to skip a beat.
Belle took a sip from her wine. "You know, I think that provided with the chance he would actually have followed through with his promise."
"Ah, the joys of being a parent to a teenager," Ary sighed sagely, obviously referring to her father who at one point had no less than seven teenaged daughters to care for. "So, what more did he say? Has he already admitted to having committed various murders?"
Belle stuck out her tongue and said with false casualness, "No…but he did say my name."
"He did what?" Ary cried, almost falling from her chair in amazement. "How can that be?"
"Well, not consciously," Belle made the subtle distinction, "but when I asked him what kind of flowers he liked he said Bellflowers."
Ary froze in her excitement, looking at the librarian as if she'd lost it.
"Bellflowers. He said that he likes Bellflowers," she repeated slowly and Belle, missing the sceptical tone, nodded absent-mindedly, her deep blue eyes showing that her thoughts were miles away.
She hoped he hadn't noticed her hitched intake of breath as her name innocently rolled from his lips. The way he'd said it lent a certain gravitas to her name, making it sound more rounded than through the sharper American pronunciation, like quality Bordeaux. And she'd liked it. Very much.
"Oh, heavens. You're even further gone than I thought," Ary sighed and discreetly ducked her head to avoid looking at the delicate blush blossoming on Belle's high cheekbones. Perhaps taking a look at the cooking pots wasn't such a bad idea after all, she decided as she lifted herself from the cane chair.
"So, what did you two talk about this time?" Ary asked, already willing to address the both of them as a set as she set course to the kitchen.
Belle cast her a mock desperate gaze after her but then smiled and shook her head. "Me, actually. He asked about my work and we talked about books and what I love about them…"
"Please, tell me you didn't list the languages you speak." Ary's head appeared around the corner, her wide eyes staring at her with some alarm and Belle pulled up her eyebrows bashfully.
"Actually, I did. Shouldn't I have done that?"
"If you'd like him to think you're no fun, yes. Now it seems as though you do nothing but stick your nose in books all day," she quoted their mutual friend Gaston and both girls wrinkled their noses at the thought of him.
"But he understood immediately that I learned those languages to be able to read my books in the original language," Belle defended herself. "He's actually the first person not to ask me why I bother when there are English translations available. He complimented me." At that moment, it didn't seem like he'd been bored, more like pleasantly surprised.
Ary's features softened. Belle had spent enough time defending why a pretty little thing like herself had her nose stuck in books and in her book this man now had already earned his Brownie points for refraining from doing so.
"Hm." The archivist turned this new piece of information over, undoubtedly adding it to a list of sorts as she drained the green beans. "You got lucky this time then. What else did you tell him?"
Belle cleared her throat and put her wineglass down. "I told him about my mum," she then said softly and immediately Ary's sceptical expression turned into a sympathetic one. Having lost her own mother she hadn't known any better than growing up with her father and six older sisters, but she knew what it was to miss a mother. Belle's fate had been especially hard, as she and her father had been left behind in a strange country that in time was to become their new home but at that time was anything but. It was a huge step for Belle to tell someone she didn't know all to well, let alone a stranger, about losing her mother.
"How did he respond?" Ary returned to her modest living room with two plates and Belle smiled when she spotted the indeed burned green beans.
"He understood," Belle summarized the insightful comments he'd made.
Ary's features softened at seeing Belle's expression. "When will you two speak again? That will be the time when you get his phone number, right?"
Belle laughed. "If he agrees to it, yes."
Ary shot her a look. "Of course he does, Bells. Don't be daft."
She suspected that whoever was hiding behind this Sleepless identity he was as fond of the librarian as she was of him.
"He has already hinted toward something like that," Belle reluctantly admitted, gravely toning down his intense promise. "Anyway, if the last rotation is anything to go by it will at least take another three weeks before I speak with him again. Although…when the volunteer asked me if I was interested in being put back on his rotation list again he was actually surprised when I agreed. Apparently, he scared off some of the other participants."
Belle smirked at the thought. Mr. Scotsman had warned her before that he was a difficult man and clearly some other participants had encountered this side of him, rather than the one he showed her. Somehow, she even suspected him of willingly reducing the number of people on his rotation list to make the rotation end quicker this time.
"Perhaps this way we will meet again sooner. That is of course, if he extends his subscription past this trial month," she added without thought as she took a bite from the deliciously seasoned halibut filet Eric had provided Ary with. Then the meaning of her words slowly sunk in and she took in a sharp breath, almost choking in her fish.
"Oh God, his subscription!"
"What about it?" Ary looked up in surprise.
"He has to extend it if I am to stay on his rotation list," her friend exclaimed with wide-open eyes. "Otherwise, he will have to sign up again and a totally random group of participants would be assigned to him. He would never return to me again."
"So, he'll extend his subscription," Ary shrugged, not seeing the problem.
"You don't understand," Belle groaned as she let her head fall in her hands. "He didn't sign up for this himself, remember? It was his son. His son holds his account and should know the conditions. Our fate lies in the hands of a fourteen-year-old boy who probably won't think about technicalities like these in a million years."
"Oh." Now Ary began to understand. "So, if his son doesn't extend his subscription he will be out within one week from today… Am I right to guess you two didn't talk about such mundane things yesterday?"
"Yes," Belle confirmed plaintively from her hiding place. "How could I be so stupid?"
"Well," Ary tried to encourage her. "Perhaps his rotation list has gotten so small that you'll return to him within this one week and there won't be a problem at all."
It sounded unconvinced and Belle just shook her head. "Not gonna happen."
Suddenly, cloud nine had evaporated to leave only the glaring truth – this morning, when she'd reluctantly hung up on Mr. Scotsman was most probably the last time they'd ever talked to each other. A wave of nausea washed over her and Belle pushed away her plate.
"I'm sorry, Ary. I think I had enough."
Her friend only nodded understandingly. When she had had difficulties convincing her overbearing father that Eric was the right man for her, she too had shoved away many a meal.
"It's up to fate then. You'll just have to hope that the boy extends his father's subscription."
Belle looked up and Ary was truly touched by the pained looked in her expressive blue eyes. "I think I need one of your cocktails now, Ary. And that feel good film you promised me."
Ary shoved back her chair decisively. "And you'll get it. You'll just sit down on the couch and let me take care of you."
From his place behind the wheel of his gleaming Cadillac, Gold absent-mindedly followed the bustle of the parking lot of mothers ushering their teenage sons in minivans or SUVs while he waited for Baelfire to appear. The boy and his team had just had their first football match of the season: visitors against the neighbouring town of York.
It had been a strange experience for the pawnbroker. He'd been the only father watching the game, his hands lightly resting on the handle of his cane. With a bemused expression on his face he'd defied both cutting wind and awkward stares from the mothers with their minivans as his dress shoes sunk away in the mud around the playing field.
The match was entertaining and Gold had been pleased to notice that his son was performing quite well as a midfielder. Nevertheless, his thoughts had kept wandering back to the wake-up service that held Miss Australia's identity hostage. The wake-up service that suddenly and unexpectedly, ceased.
Gold was startled on Monday last when he'd been woken by his alarm clock instead of his cell phone. It had been an alienating experience after three weeks of being woken by someone, and he realised that he'd become used to rising to the many voices of the WB&N Social Alarm Service. Some he'd even begun to recognize as they apparently had agreed to be put back on his rotation list. The reason why was beyond him, because he treated everyone with the same biting sarcasm underneath a veneer of politeness, but apparently some people were prone to masochism, he decided. But all of that had disappeared when on Wednesday and Thursday his phone had remained silent too. On Friday he'd made a casual remark about it to Baelfire who had looked quite startled, which had not soothed his growing nervousness on the matter.
Gold was pulled from his musings when the right car door was pulled open forcefully and a windblown teenager, now dressed in training gear, plumped down on the car seat.
"Hiya Papa, I'm here. Sorry it took so long. There weren't enough showers."
He watched as the boy reached between their seats and placed his kit bag behind his reclining seat and the back seat. For a boy his age Bae was surprisingly careful, to Gold's covert relief.
"It's alright, Bae. I'd rather wait a few more minutes than the smell of body odour accompanying us on the way back," he commented as he started the car and turned on the lights. This Sunday afternoon had been particularly gloomy.
"So, how did you like the game?" Bae asked as they slowly drove off the park, lagging behind the mothers with their minivans and SUVs.
"It was a good game," Gold nodded in appreciation. "You played well."
Gold himself had been a mediocre player at best when he was still able to move around without the cane but as any Scot he loved the game and he could see that Bae did actually possess some talent with the ball.
"And how did you like the soccer moms?" Baelfire leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes, his cheeks gaining a rosy colour in the comfortable warmth inside the car. Gold cast his son a sideways look and caught the slight smile on his son's lips.
"Is that what they're called?" Gold inquired casually as he took a left turn.
"Yeah." Baelfire's smile broadened to a smirk. "It's different here from Scotland. Here it's the mums who drive around and watch the game."
"So, I've noticed," Gold commented neutrally. "Wasn't that Josh's mother who came up to me to tell me that there's no need for me to drive you to the game because, and I quote 'the mothers' rotation system got it all covered'?"
Baelfire snorted with laughter. "Yes, that was Josh's mum. She… likes to organize everything around her. It's really annoying sometimes. So, what did you say?"
A quiet smile passed over Gold's lips. "I told her that I wasn't aware that my presence required more reason than my being a father who wants to support his son during his game."
"Ow, she won't thank you for that," Baelfire grimaced and his father gave a small shrug.
"I'm not in the business of pleasing people," he simply replied and Bae grinned amusedly.
For a moment, silence descended between them as Bae watched the pine trees rush by while dusk was setting in. Then he cast a hesitant look at his father.
"Yes, Bae?" Gold said and saw from the corner of his eye that his son was staring straight ahead as he awkwardly fumbled with his hands. He noticed that Baelfire had tensed up and he frowned.
"What is it, Bae? Is something wrong? Were you hurt during the game?"
Taking his eyes off the road for a moment he scanned his son's features but saw nothing that should worry him.
"No, I'm fine, Papa. It's just... You know, you never said anything about the wake-up service I signed you up for," Bae then blurted out. "Not if you hated it, or if you liked it. Two times you've been on the phone really long and I think it was the same person you were talking to, but…"
"Calm down, Bae." Gold frowned in surprise at his son's sudden outburst.
All this time he'd thought Bae had not wanted to hear about it and to be honest he had been reluctant to tell the fourteen-year-old about Miss Australia as he was still confused by the feelings she stirred within him. Apart from that there wasn't much to tell that could possibly be of interest to the boy, as he didn't even know her name, where she lived or what she looked like. And after their years of separation Bae was still settling in and he wanted to provide him with a stable environment as much as possible.
"You're right. Those two times I have been speaking with the same person, but I think that's not what has upset you right now." There was something else, he felt but couldn't quite pinpoint.
Baelfire shook his head. "I never told you why I signed you up for the wake-up service, didn't I?"
Then, without waiting for a response, he confessed, "I did it because I'm worried about you."
A shadow passed over Gold's face. "You're worried about me? Why?"
This wasn't something a parent generally liked to hear from their child.
"Because… because…" Bae swallowed and looked out the window. "Because you're lonely."
His voice was soft as he said it. "I noticed when I came live with you again. You're isolated. And I'm worried that you'll end up alone if something might happen to me…again."
Harsh words but they were true. The father who'd embraced Bae after six long years of separation had become a man withdrawn from the community he lived in. His position was unassailable as he seemed to practically own the entire town and was the town's sole legal adviser but he had no relationship to speak of.
Baelfire had been surprised to find out that his father had moved to America shortly after Kilian had taken him with him. His new home wasn't their modest crofters' cottage in Argyll but a salmon Queen Anne villa in a town called Storybrooke, Maine. He had become a rich man, who seemed to have burned his boats when he left Scotland behind. The only thing that his father had brought with him upon his arrival in the small town in New England was his spinning wheel.
Over the past six months Bae had found that his father had done everything he could to make him feel at home in this new environment but the boy had also noticed that when the surprise of his arrival in Storybrooke had worn off the only real relationship he had was with his newfound son. The townspeople seemed to know next to nothing about his father and even treated him with clear wariness.
His father hadn't always been like this. Back in the small village in Argyll his life as a widower hadn't been easy as the villagers seemed to blame him for something that had to do with his limp and he had been a single parent to his son, but at least they'd been part of the community.
In Storybrooke though his father seemed to keep himself apart from the rest of the town, his interest in the townspeople going no further than the business they brought him.
Baelfire had decided to take matters in his own hands.
He'd spent a few days musing over the best way of introducing his father to other people when he'd stumbled upon this wake-up service while browsing the Internet for a school project and he'd known this was what he was looking for. It was simple, anonymous and most importantly – the participants came from all over the country, not just Storybrooke.
Signing his father up had been surprisingly simple. There had been some questions, clearly meant to prevent people from signing up other people but he knew his Papa well enough to navigate through the procedure with no difficulty. The hardest thing had actually been to put his father's cell phone on his nightstand the night before the first phone call. The man never took his phone, an out-dated model that didn't even have a colour screen (let alone Internet) to bed and Baelfire knew it would only awake suspicion if he were to try and convince him to not leave it on the bar in the kitchen that night. So, he'd set his alarm clock at 3 A.M. and snuck into his father's bedroom to put the cell phone on the nightstand. He'd made sure that the ringtone's volume was raised to the maximum, not caring if this would scare his Papa out of his wits three hours later.
Baelfire had gone to bed preparing himself for his father's wrath but his reaction had been nothing like he'd expected. He'd expected anger, disappointment, confusion perhaps, but not his hastened appearance more than half an hour later than usual. This had gone quicker than he'd thought, Baelfire had established as he morosely ate his cereal drenched in cold skim milk. If this were to happen every morning he would have to get used to the taste of sloppy cereal instead of the Scottish breakfasts he'd gotten used to. Except that it didn't, at least until the day of his field trip and his father again had been on the phone longer than ever before.
Gold cast him a troubled look. "Oh, Bae…"
For once the pawnbroker was at a loss for words. Denying Baelfire's feelings on the matter would equal rejecting them but he felt horrible that Bae felt this way about his father's life.
He lifted his hand from the steering wheel and put it on Bae's shoulder, giving it a soft squeeze without taking his eyes of the road. It was a tender moment filled with melancholy and affection and Gold was glad that Bae didn't shake him off.
"So…" Baelfire eventually cleared his throat. "Who is she?"
The ghost of a smile passed over Gold's lips as he pulled back his hand. His son was a clever boy, clever and persistent.
"She was the participant who called to wake me up the first time. We had a nice conversation and she asked to be put back on my rotation list again."
"You called her 'sweetheart' the last time you were on the phone with her," Baelfire flung in his face, watching his father closely.
Gold kept his features straight, not showing his surprise. So, he'd heard that? "Yes."
"That's none of your concern, Bae," he responded mildly but with an undertone that accepted no objections.
Baelfire changed his tactics. "What did you two talk about?"
"You, among other things," Gold now replied truthfully and his son was actually given a start.
"Me?" Baelfire's eyes widened. In typical teenage fashion the fourteen-year-old hadn't thought about that possibility yet.
"Yes, Bae. Actually, I let slip your name during the first phone call. She then guessed correctly that you were the one to have me signed up for it."
Baelfire bowed his head. "Did you want to speak with her a third time?"
Gold chanced another quick look at his son as the road stretched out before them and saw his son's miserable expression, as his use of the past tense didn't go by unnoticed by him.
"Yes, I would very much like that," he said carefully and Baelfire sighed, looking away.
"Language," Gold responded automatically but his heart wasn't in it. "What's the matter, Bae?"
Baelfire raked his hand through his hair. "I had hoped that… Whatever. When I signed you up for this you got this trial subscription, which would be ending after a month. I thought it was perfect in case you didn't like it."
The expression on his features suggested that he had expected as much when he repeated, "You never said anything about it and…so, I kind of forgot that you have to actively extend your trial subscription if you want to stay on the service. And…. And then you mentioned last Friday that you hadn't received any wake-up calls in a week…and…and…"
The boy's defeated voice trailed away and Gold motionlessly stared at the road ahead at his son as he tried to understand what Bae was saying, or rather not saying as he focused on his feet, not daring to look his father in the eye.
When he finally broke the silence Bae flinched.
"So, if I understand correctly," he said in measured words, "I'm no longer participating in the wake-up service and the only way for me to continue with it is to sign up again, in which case the rotation list again will be assigned randomly. The chance however that she'll be included will be very slim."
Baelfire looked positively distressed. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
Gold began to tremble as something inside of him roared up in anger about the injustice. Miss Australia was gone. He would have to sign up again and wait endlessly for her to return to him, which could take years. Again fate was not looking upon him with kindness. As if it would ever be. Subconsciously, he clenched the wheel and he set his jaw.
No, he'd had enough. All these weeks he'd played along because of the promise of knowing Miss Australia's identity within three telephone calls but as usual fate had denied him an easy outcome. It didn't matter though. He was used to it. With Bae he'd turned the world upside down to find him again and he decided that if that was what was needed he would do the same with Miss Australia.
"Are you angry with me?" Baelfire had seen his father's reaction and his small voice pulled Gold from his bitter thoughts.
He sighed. "No Bae. Don't blame yourself. I'm responsible for my own actions. I should have asked you about the terms and conditions."
The boy seemed a little relieved and for a moment they were silent as Gold drove past the sign that welcomed them to Storybrooke.
"So… What are you going to do now?" Baelfire was the first to break the silence with a look at his father's unreadable face. He couldn't tell what his father was thinking right now but over the past six months he'd learned that he had to pay attention to what wasn't being said. And he knew that a plan was already forming in his father's mind.
Gold smiled grimly. "I don't know, yet, Bae. But I will find her."
The pocket watch Gold had recently acquired had proven to be an exquisite piece of clock making and on this snowy December day he'd spent the entire afternoon taking it apart, cleaning and reassembling it.
He looked up when all thirty clocks in his shop began to chime telling him that it was five o'clock and time to close up shop. Quietly, he rose from his seat, took his cane and limped from his workshop to the store in the front. For a moment he stopped, watching the randomly built organized chaos and his thoughts wandered to Miss Australia who would have loved his shop but now would never get the chance to set a foot inside. He wondered when she would realize that Mr... Scotsman had disappeared. It probably wasn't for another two weeks that she would begin to suspect something. He clenched his teeth at the injustice of it all.
A week ago, after Bae had confessed that he hadn't extended his father's subscription, Gold began to write down every piece of information he'd come to know about Miss Australia during their conversations, like he'd done before with Kilian Jones. It helped forming ideas on where to start looking and it ensured that he didn't forget anything. Despite that they had spoken only twice for about half an hour each time the amount of information she'd shared with him was actually surprising. She hadn't hesitated to tell him about herself, which only strengthened his resolve to find her. The small paper in his inside pocket was now filled with bits of information about her in his angular handwriting.
She was Australian and she had moved to the States with her parents when she was six years old. Her mother had passed away when she was still a child because of which she still seemed to live with her father despite having been grown up since long. He worked across from the library where she worked now as a librarian. The town where she lived was big enough to have its own public library. She loved books, which had made her extremely knowledgeable and a polyglot. There was something about flowers that he couldn't quite pinpoint but felt was important and she had welcomed everything he'd told her with such warmth and care that he'd been hopelessly drawn toward her and there was nothing he could do about it.
In the quiet of his shop where he was seldom disturbed he would often pull out the piece of paper and stare at it, trying to figure out where to start as his mind echoed her cheerful voice trusting him with all the information he'd written down on there. At night when Bae was asleep he'd made a list of public libraries in the United States of America, only to look at the dishearteningly large result.
There must be another way, he mused. Another way that didn't involve having to call every bloody library in the country asking for a female librarian with an Australian accent… But no real alternative to his original idea had presented itself thus far.
The sound of the bell announcing a visitor made Gold look up and his impassive features softened in a smile when Baelfire stumbled inside. "Hiya, Papa. It's past closing time. You ready to go?"
Gold nodded and carefully put the watch in his vault behind one of the many paintings on the wall.
"Papa, I've been thinking," Baelfire said as he leaned against the counter. "What exactly does this Australian woman know about you?"
Gold cast him a look as he raised his eyebrows. He'd told Bae some facts about Miss Australia, feeling that the boy had the right to know and in the knowledge that the secret would be safe with him.
"She knows I'm a pawnbroker originating from Scotland and that I'm father to a fourteen-year-old named Baelfire. Does it matter?" he replied absent-mindedly as he crossed the shop on a measured pace, the sound of his leather shoes accompanied by the familiar thud of his cane.
"Well, yes, actually. It's great!"
Gold turned around the closed sign. "It is?"
Bae nodded vigorously. "Yeah. It means that not only can you search for her, but you can reach out to her too."
He'd clearly given this some thought.
"In what way?" Gold shifted his weight from his bad leg to the cane as he turned to look at his son, a spark of interest in his eyes.
Baelfire gave him a huge grin. "Papa, have you ever heard of the Internet?"
It earned him a non-understanding look from the older man.
"You mean the digital highway where you signed me up for that ridiculous wake-up service?" Gold made an elegant gesture with his ringed hand. "I might have heard of it, yes."
"Then, do you also understand that it won't do that in 2017 your shop still goes without a website?"
Gold's features softened as Baelfire smirked amusedly and he realized that for the first time since Bae had come live with him he felt free enough to banter with his father. It meant that he was beginning to feel at home and the thought warmed his heart with gratitude.
"I wasn't aware," Gold responded dryly but without his signature sarcasm.
Baelfire inclined his head. "You should be. I can build a website for the shop that will guide her to you if she decides to Google you."
"Google me," Gold repeated with distaste as if Baelfire had just suggested Miss Australia doing something very questionable to him. "But she doesn't know my name and there must be hundreds of thousands pawnbrokers in the whole country."
Gold honestly didn't understand how this would help him.
"Ah, but you said yourself that she knows my name." Bae spread his arms triumphantly. "I mean, how many Baelfires can there be in the whole of the USA? And how many of them are the son of a Scottish pawnbroker?"
Gold nodded thoughtfully, already warming up to the idea but not quite understanding it yet. "I see your point, but how exactly is that going to work then? I mean you're my son, not an employee of the shop."
The boy let his eyes sweep along the shelves. "No, but I can build in search commands that will lead anyone who types in things like 'Baelfire pawnbroker' or 'pawnshop Baelfire' in any search engine immediately to the shop."
Upon his father's doubtful look, he gave him a teasing grin. "It's either that or a Gold family website."
Gold pulled a face at the idea but he knew it would please his son if he was allowed to help his father so he nodded. Then something occurred to him. "Can you also include common misspellings of your name in the commands? I never actually spelled your name out for her."
Baelfire nodded. "Sure."
His father smiled. "Do it, Bae. It's a good idea. But I would like to take a look at it before it goes online."
The teenager nodded, pleased that he could be of help in his father's quest. "Of course. Shall I get your coat? What's for dinner tonight?"
"One day I'm going to teach you how to cook for yourself, Baelfire Gold," Gold grumbled and received a chuckle from the back of the shop.
A moment later he pulled on his gloves and made sure that his scarf was tightly wrapped around his neck, then the boy and his father exited the shop and Gold locked the door.
From the corner of his eye he saw that Bae already sprinted toward the other side of the waiting car and he shivered as a gust of wind blew stinging snowflakes into his face.
Turning around Gold cast a habitually look at the other side of the street. The days were growing shorter and it had been a sombre afternoon. The light of the streetlights already reflected on the glistening Main Street, wet from sleet. Days like this he wondered why for heaven's sake he hadn't chosen to settle down on Hawaii instead.
As usual his gaze swept the streets when the headlights of a passing car illuminated the derelict building across from the street. It was a wooden building, about a hundred years old, which they considered ancient in this country, and actually quite iconic with its remarkable clock tower. But the building was boarded up, the clock was broken and nobody had noticeably been looking after it since he'd arrived in Storybrooke. The Storybrooke Public Library, that's what the townspeople called it though it hadn't been functioning as such for a very long time. The Widow Lucas had once said that there must still be a complete inventory inside.
As he stared at the building a sweet voice, dipped in a delicious Australian accent, gently nudged his thoughts.
'I would love to see more of the world, you see? Take up a new challenge, even if it's only in the next town. I could become a librarian somewhere else.'
A triumphant smile passed over his lips. And with the dilapidated building in view across the street he made his way over to his car. Suddenly, he'd been presented with not one but two ways of finding Miss Australia. It was time to pay Mayor Mills a visit and remind her of one of her many unfulfilled election promises.
A/N: Thanks so much for the reviews! I loved reading all of them. NicoleMuenchSeidel asked if these calls take place on weekends too. Actually, they don't and it's a pity because you're right, because during weekends neither Gold nor Belle would have to rush in the morning. And now I've even ended Gold's subscription! I'm such a mean person. It's highly probable that Gold and Belle would recognize each other's voices would they accidentally run into each other. Therefore, isn't it lovely to know they live so close to each other? The museum Bae went to was in Boston, Belle lives in Portland. My deepest apologies go to Neferet25 that Gold was robbed of his opportunity to ask for Belle's number. I promise I make it up to you! Thank you so much, Inkinmyheartandonthepage! I hope you and Rumbeller25 liked this chapter too. Wondermorena, you rock! We're totally ignoring OUAT's bold storytelling so they will do the bold thing and bring Bae back on board (after Rumple ripped Zelena to pieces of course). I hope you liked the bit of insight in Bae's thoughts in this chapter. Same goes for the lovely Cynicsquest. Wouldn't dare to think what it sounds like to butcher Robert Burns with a fake Scottish accent, hehe. And a very heartfelt thank you to the awesome Raeymaeker. It's funny because my beta (the wonderful Delintthedarkone) loves the dialogue too so now she's being a truly wonderful beta by pushing me to write as much dialogue as possible :-). But I also love writing sceneries like my description of Gold spinning, so I'm really chuffed that you singled out that particular scene. I actually do know another person capable of capture the essence of Gold spinning and that's you, my dear. I've no experience with wake-up services myself. As far as I know there aren't any services outside of Russia and I think I actually know more words in Japanese than in Russian :-). Also, I'm much too shy for these things. I'm purely following my imagination on this one.
Thanks so much for reading!