Finding Alice

“Every time I close my eyes
It’s like a dark paradise
No one compares to you
But there’s no you,
Except in my dreams tonight.”
-Lana Del Rey


19. Chapter Nineteen

The shovel hit the grassy earth with a satisfying crunch. Jefferson hit the root of the rosebush and felt it crack against the metal and reverberate through his arms. He pushed the shovel into the grass and then swung it back over his shoulder, disposing of the part of the rosebush he managed to break apart. Then he got to work on the rest.

He was there for most of the day, and the cemetery was located in a moderately quiet part of town, so no one noticed him. He kept his eye on his watch, and just before school let out, he called to have Grace go home with a friend.

Despite how quiet it was near the cemetery, someone was bound to notice the man digging at a gravesite. It was no surprise to him when he heard Emma’s voice from above the sufficient hole he’d dug around himself.

“Uh—Jefferson?” she asked. He looked up, shading his eyes against the sunlight. The woman was standing at the edge of the hole, grimly looking down at him. “Look,” she said. “I didn’t say anything when you cut up the roses because I figured—she’s your wife. If anyone has the right to tear up her roses, it’s you. But this? I can’t allow this. It’s illegal, Jefferson. As well as morally questionable. Even for you.”

“I’m almost done,” he told her. Then he went back to work, sinking the shovel into the damp earth and tossing it back onto the ground so close to Emma that she had to jump to the side to avoid it.

“I get that you’re grieving, and you’ve obviously reached the ‘grasping at straws’ stage of the process, but you can’t go around digging up graves. What exactly are you expecting to find?”

“Nothing,” he admitted. “I’m expecting to find nothing.”

“Then why are you still digging?”

“She’s not here. So it doesn’t matter.”

“It does matter. This is public property. It’s a grave. Regardless of whether it’s empty or not.”

“Then arrest me.” She didn’t move, and he didn’t expect her to. She had that meddling trait like her parents. She was going to let him finish his task so she could find out what it was he was looking for.

“So what? You’re just going to keep digging? What happens if you don’t find anything? Where’s your daughter?”

“Grace went home with a friend. She’s fine. I already checked on her. She’s doing homework and watching cartoons. I’ll stop when I reach six feet.”

“And what if you do find something?” she questioned after a few minutes of silent digging.

“Then I’ll have some answers.”

“What if they’re not the answers you’re looking for? What if you find a coffin?”

“Then I’ll deal with it. At least I’ll know. If it’s hers—at least she’ll be where she belongs. And I can get rid of all those goddamn hats.”

Emma sighed again and looked around the cemetery, probably hoping no one was watching her not do her job. Had this been any other town, she probably would have arrested him. But it was Storybrooke, and the things buried in Storybrooke were rarely “nothing.” Plus, she probably knew she’d only delay him for a time anyway. He would find a way to finish what he’d started. And she didn't want his daughter back in the system.

She didn’t have to hold on much longer anyway. A few shovels full of dirt later, and Jefferson hit something. The metal thunked loudly, and her attention broke off. She looked down into the hole where he was now standing as rigid and tense and stone.

“What’d you find?” she asked after a moment, though she hesitated to voice what they’d heard. The shovel had undoubtedly hit hollow wood.

“I don’t know,” he told her. He dropped the shovel to his side and wiped his forehead on his rolled-up sleeve before kneeling in the dirt to clear off whatever he’d found.

He was relieved to see that it wasn’t the surface of a coffin. He’d hit a box. A small one, no bigger than the jewelry box he'd made for Alice many years before. He was able to wipe the dirt off and lifted it out.

“What is it?” she asked again, trying to get a good look from where she stood above him.

“I think you know what this is,” he replied.

He held the box up, and she reached down to take it from him. She set it aside on the grass and held out her hand to pull him out of the sloppy hole. He was at her side a moment later, scrambling for the box with trembling fingers. But once he had it back in his hands, he just stood. He stared at it and didn’t move.

“Regina has a lot of boxes like this,” Emma noted.

“Indeed she does.”

“Why would Regina have it? Why would she bury it and not—rub it in your face like you said?”

“Regina isn’t the only person with that power.”

“Don’t they usually—glow?”

“There’s dirt caked into the windows.”

She looked down at the box expectantly, but his fingers were still shaking. He took a deep breath, fearing whatever he was going to see when he lifted the lid. The boxes usually had windows, and he wasn’t entirely sure that it was dirt. Maybe there was nothing glowing inside at all. Maybe there was a pile of ash. Evidence of a life snuffed out too soon. But he had to do it. He had to know for sure.

So he lifted the lid and looked down at the glowing red heart. It pulsed with light, and he could feel something deep inside that told him it was hers. He could feel it in his hands. Alice’s life and warmth right there in front of him again. All that Storybrooke had of her was contained inside that box. He’d asked the cup to show him his wife, and it had. It led him to her heart. He looked back up at Emma, who was looking down at the glowing heart with eyes pinched in concern.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. He shook his head.

“Whatever for?”

“Regina—or someone—Cora maybe—took your wife’s heart. That can’t be easy to deal with.” He felt a giggle bubble out of him as the light of Alice’s heart flickered on Emma’s face.

“But don’t you know what this means?” he asked her. “The heart is still beating, Sherriff. It means she’s alive.”

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