Flash Fiction Friday: Once Upon A Time

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Story books start with once upon a time because everything happens upon a time but stories only happen once. The princess only gets saved once and then she doesn’t need saving again. You only slay a dragon once, because after that it’s dead. 
    Once upon a time I walked into the bar on the corner of Second Street and Park. It was a Monday night and it was snowing hard and I didn’t have a car to drive because my muffler fell off somewhere on the highway and my breaks weren’t working right. I think it was December because the bar was all lit up with strings of Christmas lights and there was a little tree squatting in one corner.
    The bartender’s name tag read ‘Annabeth’. She poured me a drink and I told her I liked her name. She said she didn’t and that I should call her Annie. Annie served me three drinks that night, all the same, and she hummed songs about reindeers and snowmen as she wiped the bar clean. 
    It was late by the time I finished my last drink. Annie asked if I wanted another but I told her no. A man in a red Salvation Army apron tucked into the stool beside me. Annie greeted him like an old friend; arms outstretched, thousand-watt smile. He had a cheap fake beard hanging loose around his neck. There were snowflakes in the whiskers. Annie called him Father Christmas and gave him shots of Irish cream. She passed one to me, too.
    “I didn’t order this,” I said, and Annie shrugged her shoulders.
    She said, “You’ve sat here long enough to be a friend.” Annie had a thick drawl that made her vowels longer than they needed to be. She poured herself a shot, too, and said, “Cheers!” in that funny way of hers. We clinked our glasses together. 
    Annie didn’t have a wedding ring. She had laugh lines that pulled at her eyes. I told her I didn’t have a car and she said she would drive me home if I was willing to wait around until four thirty.
    “You should drive me to work, then,” I joked.
    “I’ll do that, too,” Annie said. Father Christmas left at two because his wife called to ask where he was. I could hear her tinny voice crackling through the speaker. He told her he’d lost track of time. She said she loved him. Her voice sounded tired. He said he would be home soon.
    Annie drove a ’94 Corolla. Its engine made funny sounds, squeaky like dolphins calling over waves. She laughed about it. She dropped me off at home and I watched as her little red car puttered down the street laden heavy with snow. 
    That’s where the story ends. I never saw her again.