Chapter 1: Pen Pal

I had a pen pal when I was younger. It was super cool. The pen pal program was set up through my school. My whole class would write letters and the teacher would gather them up and mail them for us. The letters were all sent to another class at another school in another city.

So one day every couple of weeks the class would sit down and write to our respective pen pal. My pen pal's name was Jenny. She seemed really cool and she lived on a farm. She would write all about her farm and all of the animals and everything that happened there. She even sent a picture of a newborn calf with one of her letter one time. It was the cutest thing ever.

I mostly just wrote about my cat Lord Tubbington and my baby sister and the fort my dad built for me in the back yard. I even sent her a picture of Lord Tubbington with my sister in her car seat inside the fort. I may or may not have gotten into trouble for that. My mom didn't think it was cute but I did.

We were in the forth grade and at the end of the school year we got to go on a field trip to meet our pen pals. That was really awesome but then the year ended and we went to fifth grade and no more pen pal.

I guess I could have found out Jenny's address and kept writing to her about my life but I guess my 10 year old self never thought of that.

Some days I wish I still had a pen pal. Just someone to write to and tell about my day. But no one really sends letters anymore except for old people. I guess that's why I have a journal though. Instead of writing to a pen pal I write in my journal now. It's not the same but it works.

If I still had a pen pal I would write to them about what happened today because I think it was probably the best part of my week so far. It's Friday and week's almost over so it will probably end up being the best part of the week. Definitely the most interesting part.

xxxxx-earlier in the night-xxxxx

I was at work. My parents own a bar/restaurant and I work there. It's nothing fancy but it's what I do. The pay is good and I can pretty much do whatever I want considering that my parents own the place. I don't abuse that power though.

I've work there since I was legal. Fourteen to work in the kitchen and eighteen to work at the bar. It's basically been my whole life. I love it. I get to meet so many interesting people. And then there's the regulars. Most of whom are like extended family. I've known them most of my life.

I've been bartending for a little over three years now. Since I turned eighteen and got my bartender's license. Friday nights are both my favorite and least favorite night to work. It's always crazy busy which is great for getting tips but leaves me flustered because I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off. There isn't any time to stop and take a breather but it's fun at the same time. It's hard to explain. It's like a rush of adrenaline that lasts all night.

On Friday's it's more of a younger crowd. The regulars are all gone by six or seven pm. I see a lot of new faces on Friday nights. I also serve a lot of people that I have never seen before and a lot of times will never see again. That's just how Friday nights go.

I'm good with faces. When someone comes to the bar once and they sit there for more than five minutes I can usually recognize them if I see them again. I might not know or remember their name but I know that I have seen them before.

Sugar and I are working the bar and my mom and dad are in charge of the customers in the dinning area. I had just wiped down the bar in front of me after a man had just left. He left me a measly $1.25 for a tip. I just hope he wasn't some rich snob that could afford to leave a bigger tip than he did. Then again he had on a sweatshirt and jeans so he probably wasn't rich.

I finished wiping down the bar just as the bar stool was pulled out and I looked up to gauge my next customer. A woman no more than 24 or 25 sat down on the stool. She had a deep scowl on her face. Possibly angry. Not my favorite kind of customer.

I throw the towel over my shoulder. "What can I get for you?" I ask the woman.

She looks up and narrows her eyes at me. She looks even more angry than she had a second ago. I didn't know if I should say something about it. I was just doing my job after all I had no intention of making her even angrier.

She looks down the length of the bar. We are at one end and can see everyone else saddled up to it. "Something strong. Very strong." She grumbles in a dark, deep, irritated voice.

Whenever someone asks for something strong I have a few go to drinks that I serve. Something with vodka or whiskey or something equally strong usually fits the bill. This woman didn't really look like a whiskey person so vodka it is.

I whip up the drink and set it on the bar for her. She takes it without a word and takes a generous drink. These types of customers are the hardest. They don't really want to talk. They don't want anything to do with anyone else in the bar. They just want to sit and drink. But that's never stopped me before and it's not going to stop me now.

"Rough day?" I start out asking. Usually when someone comes in grumpy or angry it's because they are having a shit day.

"Something like that." She mumbles. Short and to the point.

"Work?" Is my next question.

She shakes her head. So not work. The next question I usually ask is if it's about a relationship but with the hard look this woman is giving me I didn't want to ask it.

I venture over to another customer and get him another beer before returning to the dark-haired woman. She still looks like she is about to throw the glass in her hand at the wall. I look down to her drink. Nearly empty. Damn that was fast. She hasn't been here more than five minutes.

"Another?" I nod at her drink.

She slides the glass across the bar and nods. "Keep them coming." She grumbles. I look over the woman. Her dark hair falling over her shoulders and her hands clasped tightly together on the top of the bar.

"Alrighty then." I make her another vodka and coke. At the very least I know she likes the drink I chose. I slide the glass back to her when I'm finished. "So." I place my hands on my hips. It gets her attention and she follows me with her eyes while I lean back against the counter behind me. "Relationship troubles then?"

She scrunches her face up. It's kinda cute actually. She could be kinda cute if she didn't have that damn scowl on her face. "Not really."

"Family?" I venture.

"I don't want to talk about it. I just want to drink." She tells me. I nod. Okay. So probably something to do with her family but she doesn't want to talk about it. Which means it's probably a touchy subject.

You learn a lot about people when you are a bartender. You learn about all the little things that most people miss. You know how to handle just about any situation. People are very diverse and come in with a range of emotions and you have to be careful to not push the wrong buttons. It's like a huge lesson in psychology and how people tick.

"How's the drink?" I ask. I need to try and start with something new but don't quite now how to go about it. This one's a going to be a tough cookie. Gotta stay away from the personal stuff.

She nods. "Great."

"Woman of few words, I see." I tease. It doesn't work. She narrows her eyes at me again.

"Not really interested in talking to you. No offense." She takes another gulp of her drink.

"None taken." A send her a smile before I push off the counter and head in Sugar's direction.

"Hey, Sug. Anything interesting going on down here? That woman over there is killin me. She's grumpy or maybe angry." I rest my chin on her shoulder as I speak. It might be weird to any outsider but Sugar and I have been friends since her freshman year of high school my sophomore year.

"Not really." She shrugs and my chin falls off of her shoulder.

It's still fairly early for a Friday night. Like 9:30 or something. Only four and a half hours til closing time. "Okay." I mumble. I was hoping for some good gossip or something. I stand up straight and head back to the other end of the bar. On the way I refill two customer's drinks before getting back to the grumpy woman. I should probably ask her name before I accidentally call her grumpy woman.

I see her empty glass. "Another?" She nods. "May I ask your name? I've never seen you in here before." I say as I make her third drink.

"I've never been here before. So yeah." She shrugs but doesn't give me a name. "Thanks." She says as a hand her drink to her.

"No problem." I smile at her again hoping she will smile back or at least quit glaring angrily.

After her fourth drink and another failed attempt at a conversation I turn my attention to the television up in the corner that she has been staring at most of the time she has been here. I have a feeling that she isn't watching it though. There's a basketball game on. I could talk to one of the other customers at the bar but most of them are here with friends or family and I don't want to intrude. So, every few minutes, I look away from the tv to see if they need refills.

A little after 11 Sugar comes by and smacks me on the ass. "Gotta empty the tank." She giggles. "Watch the bar." I turn around from the tv to scan the bar. I check the mystery grumpy woman and she is eyeing me curiously. At least it's not that damn scowl.

"What?" I ask.

I think I startled her or something. She nearly jumps out of her seat. "Nothing." Her eyes shift to the side in the same direction that Sugar had gone. Interesting. I can see the wheels turning in her head. She definitely saw Sugar smack me on the ass.

Someone flags me down at the other end and I walk over to them. Sugar returns after a couple of minutes and I return to my end of the bar. I ask the mystery grump if she wants another drink and she nods. That's number six. I like to keep count. Especially when someone is sitting at the bar alone. It's just a weird protective thing that I do.

Sometime during number six she mumbles something about the bathroom and gets up off her bar stool and I watch as she stumbles a little towards the restroom.

I serve number seven shortly after midnight. I know because my parents always leave at midnight on Friday nights. The kitchen closes at ten and then they clean it and then they hang around until midnight before going home for the night. They have to be up in the morning to open the place for ten am.

I probably shouldn't serve this woman any more drinks. She is long past drunk at this point. I should also ask her how she is getting home.

It's starting to slow down. More and more patrons are leaving for home or another bar or whatever it is that they go. I look at the clock. 12:37. And then look to the dark-haired woman. I really look at her. Now that the bar has quieted down I pay a little more attention to her.

Her dark hair and dark eyes. It's dimly lit in the bar but I can tell that she has a dark complexion. She's dressed fairly simply. A long sleeve shirt and black jeans. And it works for her too. I'm not gonna lie she's a very attractive woman.

She catches me looking and I quickly look away. She doesn't really do anything about it though. Or maybe she can't in her drunk haze. Maybe she didn't even realize I was, more or less, checking her out. I glance back to see her looking at the tv again. I dodged a bullet there.

"How long you going stay here?" I ask her. I cross my arm over my chest and take a step so that I am standing directly in front of her, just the bar in between us.

She shrugs. "What time's it?" She slurs out.

A little giggles escapes my lips. I slap my hand over my mouth quickly but it's too late. She heard it. She attempts to narrow her eyes at me but it just looks like she is constipated or something. I giggle a little more. She's cute.

"What?" She asks.

I shake my head and control my giggles. I look at the clock again. "It's 12:43. How are you getting home?"

She shrugs again. "I drove here so-" I hiccup slips out of her and I have to pinch myself in the arm so I don't laugh at her. She waves her hand in front of herself and then points to her empty glass. "Another, Miss Bartender." She slurs.

"I don't think you should have anymore. And my name is Brittany." I take the glass from in front of the woman but have no intention of refilling it.

"Why not?" She slams her palms into the bar top. "I'm not drunk." But her actions prove that she is.

"Yes. You are. So I am going to ask you one more time. How are you getting home tonight?" She scrunches her face up again in thought, I assume. "You can't drive. I won't let you."

"You won't let me." Her voice is louder now than it had been at any point tonight. "You're not the boss of me." She balls up her fists on the top of the bar. I can see that I am making her angry and need to diffuse the situation before it escalates.

"No. I'm not. But, I don't need a guilty conscious. So, how are you getting home?" Sometimes dealing with drunks isn't fun. Everybody's different and you never know what you are going to get or what could happen. It keeps me on my toes. I huff out a frustrated breath and turn to reach for the phone.

"How are you getting home, Miss Bartender?" I stop and turn back to the dark-haired woman. She is looking at me expectantly. Her head cocked to the side waiting for an answer.

It's an odd question to ask but I don't have a problem answering it. It's simple. "I'm walking. I just live next door." I probably shouldn't reveal that information to strangers but this woman doesn't seem like she would stalk me or break into my house or attack me and she probably won't even remember this in the morning.

A weird little noise is the only response she gives me. It's between a hum and a groan, I think. I'm watching her watch me. Something strange passes between us. Like a silent conversation or maybe a silent understanding.

I shake my head to clear my thoughts. "I'll call you a cab." I say and turn to grab the phone and dial the number for the local cab company.

After I finish the call I turn and she is looking at me. I raise an eyebrow. "I called a cab, it should be here in ten." I inform the woman. She just keeps looking at me. I wouldn't call it staring but her focus is definitely on me. She smiles after a few seconds. If you could call it a smile. The corners of her lips twitch upwards a little. Her lips don't part and there are no teeth showing but compared to that damn scowl that's been on her face all night this is an improvement.

"Tanks." She slurs out. I smile at her. I take my towel and start wiping down the bar. There are only a few customers left and I want to get out of here as soon as possible. I can do a few clean up things as long as I don't bother anyone.

A few minutes pass and I have the bar mostly cleaned off- where no one is sitting that is. "You missed a spot." I hear it from my right. I look up and the grumpy drunk woman is looking at me. I guess she isn't so grumpy anymore. It's probably the alcohol and she doesn't remember that she had a shity day.

I walk over to her. "Pardon?"

"You missed a spot." She drops her head and stares down at the bar top directly in front of her.

I'm smiling again because that was just too funny. I take my towel and wipe over the spot in front of her. "Better?"

She leans forward until her nose is only about an inch from the top of the bar and inspects it and then nods. "Yep." She slowly picks her head up to look at me. Her eyes are all glassed over and I don't even know if she can see straight at this point.

I hear a car horn. "You're cab's here." She looks to her right and then to her left and then stands up off of her bar stool. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a bunch of one dollar bills. She throws them on the bar and turns away from me. She wobbles and throws her hands out to her sides for balance. She takes a step and nearly crashes into the wall.

The next thing I know I have my arms under her armpits holding her up. I sprinted around the end of the bar to her in a flash. She is facing me and looking up at me and- "You're eyes are really blue." She says.

I smile. She just too cute right now. "Okay. Let's get you out to that cab." She doesn't make any movement so I start walking hoping she will get the idea and try and walk with me. I twist so that she is on my right side and I sling my arm around her waist.

I make it to the door with her and then there's the three stairs that we have to get down to get to the taxi cab. The first one goes smoothly but the next two don't. She trips, or I trip, I don't really know. But I am throwing my free hand out. Thankful the cab pulled up tight to the curb. I take two big steps and brace myself with my hand on the back door of the cab. It's a chain reaction after that. She crashes into my side and my body crashes into the side of the cab.

Both my arms wrap around her to keep her up. I look down at her once I get my balance. She doesn't seem phased at all by our stumble. "What?" She says. I shake my head and push off the cab so I can open the back door.

When I have the door open she steps away from my side and climbs into the back seat on her hands and knees before plopping down on her butt. I peer into the cab. "You can get your car tomorrow."

She narrows her eyes the best that she can in her drunken state. "Tomorrow?"

"Yeah. Tomorrow. Now tell this guy where you live so he can take you home."

She rattles off her address. I have no idea where that is but I guess it doesn't matter as long as the cab driver know where it is. I turn to him next. "Can you make sure she gets into her house okay?"

"Not my problem lady. I just pick 'em up and drop 'em off." He scoffs and throws the car into gear.

I half debate whether or not I should just get into the cab and go with. Make sure that this woman gets home safe and that she gets into her house or apartment without any problems. I can't do that. I have to close the bar down and my parents would kill me if I just left.

I step back and rest my hand on the door frame. "Well, get home safe." I tell the woman in the back seat. She nods at me. I smile and close the door. The cab zips off as soon as the door is shut.

I make my way up the steps and back into the back. There are only two customers left. Two guys talking with Sugar at her end of the bar. Sugar nods at me when she sees me come back inside. I go around to the backside of the bar and start the nightly cleaning and closing routine.

So that's the first chapter. Tell me what you think.