The bear looked up when the door opened, saw her come into the bar, watched her decide where to sit. Those three brothers were crammed into a booth, as usual. Was that disdain he saw in her eyes for them? Because they were pigs?
She went to a booth away from the three pigs, sat down briefly; too soft? She went to a high-top, clambered up onto the stool. Quickly got back down. Too tall? Finally she settled at the bar a couple seats down from him. He heard her sigh. Just right.
He must have been staring, for she glowered at him. “Do I know you?”
“We’ve met,” he growled.
She hadn’t changed much, older of course, and her golden locks had paled, were now shoulder length.
“Well I don’t remember and I don’t want to know you now.” She ordered a drink, kept looking at the door in the mirror over the bar. Noticing, the bartender gently told her to relax, that the big bad wolf frequented a bar on the other side of town.
She laughed nervously, didn’t say anything. She wasn’t afraid of the big bad wolf, but she was afraid of getting picked up for B&E. She scanned the room again and became doubly glad to not have sat at a booth. Why, she wondered, do people have to bring kids into a bar, when all she wanted was a quiet drink? It was a family of four, the mother tired and distracted, absentmindedly touching her short cropped blonde hair, as the boy and girl, twins perhaps, tussled and argued with each other while the father (not too bad looking even with his thick glasses), ignored them all. She finally recognized the woman, despite the short hair. She snorted; from one entrapment to another. She turned back to her drink. The bear was staring at her again.
“You don’t remember me, do you?”
“I said I didn’t.”
“No, you wouldn’t, you left in quite a hurry. After destroying our property.”
“Oh… Baby Bear, all grown up. Look, that was a long time ago. Some porridge, a chair… I’ll buy you a drink.”
“You don’t get it, do you?”
“What, were you traumatized by a little girl with golden locks?”
“Yes, actually, I was. Not so much by the damage you’d done, but by how my parents reacted. Or didn’t react.”
“What are you even talking about?”
“If the cops had come, who would have been questioned more, you, or the bears? I wanted justice and my parents just said to suck it up, let it go, don’t start any trouble. You come into our neighborhood, enter our home uninvited, get into our stuff, breaking some of it, and I’m supposed to not start trouble.”
“That’s still not my problem.”
“No, of course not. You just breeze through anywhere you like, no worries about being welcome.”
“You don’t know me.”
“And you don’t want to know me. You don’t want to know that while my family and I were out for our walk that day we were alternately chased or run from for no other reason than we are bears. Like a bear can’t walk in the woods. So our walks are secretive and stealthy; then we get maligned for being secretive and stealthy! I was already feeling so low that day and then to see that my home, my room, my bed even, had been invaded…”
“I didn’t know. I… I shouldn’t have gone into your home, but I was running away, hiding out. I was scared, tired, hungry…”
The bear passed her a cocktail napkin. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose before continuing her tale. “My father had told some king a cockamamie story about me being able to spin straw into gold, and in a classic lose/lose situation, if I actually managed that, then I was to marry the king.”
“Wait- I thought that the king did marry that girl, but that she and her newborn escaped Rumpelstiltskin.”
“No way. I mean that’s the story, but me, I didn’t want anything to do with either of them, the king or that other creepy little man. I took off running first chance I got. Been running ever since.”
They sipped their drinks in contemplative quiet, ordered another.
“What was your father thinking?”
“I think he was using a metaphor, ya know, telling the king I could make the most out of a bad situation, look on the bright side… But the king took him literally and I didn’t have a chance.”
“Greed, that’s what does in poor people and bears, other people’s greed.”
“Got that right Baby Bear.”
Their musing was interrupted as seven dwarves noisily sat down at the bar, still in their work clothes, some boisterous, some belligerent.
She caught the bear’s eye. “You wanna get outta here?”
“Yes, that’d be just right.”