Red Riding Hood
He pulled the hood of the red cloak over his head smirking to himself as he grabbed the basket off the table. He was itching to leave but knew his mother would lecture him before his departure.
“Remember Red, stay on the path. Don’t talk to strangers. Go straight there and come straight home,” his mother instructed. Her speech was going on longer than normal. Red needed to leave. If he was late, he would miss her.
His eyes rolled. He knew the rules and he never followed them, but his mother did not have to know. Taking his grandmother her weekly sweets from the family bakery had always been his favorite part of the week. It beat milking the cow or baking bread.
“Are you listening to me, Boy?” His mother grumbled as she yanked on his ear.
“Ow, Mum. Yes, I heard you. I will stay on the path. I won’t talk to strangers. I will go straight there and straight home,” he laughed repeating his mother’s instructions. The mother of five never settled for funny business of any kind. She once marched down to the market after one of her sons had stolen an apple. She flogged the boy herself, then dragged him home by his eyes only to whip him some more.
Red’s mother gave her son a stern gaze before nodding as she placed something extra in the basket. She patted her son’s shoulder then kissed his cheek.
“Be safe and tell your Grandmother that I wish her well.”
“I will Mum,” Red shouted as he darted out the front door. His blood red cloak was pulled over his head and his hands clutched the basket of goodies tightly.
He smirked to himself as he entered the woods. His grandmother preferred to live away from civilization and other people. Red’s path to her house went straight through the middle of the forest outside of his village. Most of the villagers were too afraid to enter the dark depths of the forest. Occasionally, a drunk would wander into the grove only to never to be seen again. Many legends surrounded the mysterious disappearances.
One legend was that of wolves, who were disguised as men, that preyed off wandering travelers. Another was of a murderous huntsman who went mad after the death of his wife and child. Red knew the legends well, but he also knew the truth behind them. He had never encountered the huntsman, but the wolves were an entirely different story.
An hour into his journey, Red was too deep into his thoughts that he did not notice the rustling sound coming from a nearby shrub. There was no wind today so the sound was very out of place. A dark shadow in the underbrush followed alongside him. Red’s thoughts were interrupted when something came flying out of a tree at him.
He jumped and quickly caught whatever had flown in his direction. It was an apple. He laughed softly to himself and took a bite of the juicy, red fruit as he looked toward the direction it came from
That’s when he saw her. Red paused to stare at her with the apple still in his mouth. She was standing with one hand on her hip and a slight pout on her lips. In the other hand, she held a basket of brightly colored, crimson apples. What caught Red’s eye was the long, curly, brown hair that sprouted from the girl’s scalp. The girl laughed as she saw drool and apple juice begin to run down the young man’s chin. Red quickly pulled the apple from his mouth and coughed awkwardly. A soft giggle escaped from her rosy lips as she walked toward the young man.
“Let me help you with that,” she smiled, pulling a green handkerchief from her back pocket. She lightly dabbed at the liquid dripping from Red’s chin.
Embarrassed, he waved the girl’s hand away, “Annabeth, that isn’t necessary.”
She shrugged and handed him the handkerchief stretching her arms into the air as she cracked her neck.
“Do you know how long I have been waiting for you?” She tossed him another apple.
Apples were hard to come by in Red’s village. The delectable fruit only grew in the woods and few were brave enough to venture inside to pick them. Anyone who did manage to get their greedy hands on the apples sold them at an unbelievably high price. Lucky for Red, Annabeth knew where to find the juiciest apples.
“I know. I know. Mum was taking longer with her speech today,” he groaned as he caught the apple and slipped it into his basket. He had already been lectured by his mother. He did not need Annabeth to chastise him either.
“I almost left several times. You are lucky that, for some reason, I’m attracted to you,” she teased, crossing her arms and turning around.
Red smiled as he traced his fingers along Annabeth’s spine and rested his chin on the top of her head.
“I’m sorry, Love. I promise that I will cut my time at my grandmother’s short,” he sighed and kissed the top of her head before backing away.
“Good. She’s old. It’s about time she died anyway,” Annabeth shrugged.
Red raised an eyebrow at the girl. “She’s still my grandmother. She may be an old and cranky coot, but she’s still family. She’s also the only reason I can come visit you,” he added.
Annabeth smiled as she skipped ahead of him before turning back to tell him to hurry. Red shook his head chuckling as he ran to catch up with the girl. Her curls bounced against her back as she skipped. His hand connected with hers causing her to jolt from surprise.
“Does my attractiveness dull your wolf senses?” He laughed. Her eyes narrowed. She stomped her foot down on top of his before darting back off into the bushes with only a giggle. Grandmother’s house was not far.
Red glanced at Annabeth’s form hiding in the bushes. He ran up the hill where his grandmother’s cottage rested and knocked on the old, wooden door. The door never opened so Red knocked again. It still did not open. He knocked once more before opening the door himself.
“Grandmother?” He called out. “I have your sweets from the bakery.”
There was no answer. Worried, Red set the basket on the kitchen table. He pulled out the knife his father had given him for his seventeenth birthday two years ago and readied himself for anything.
“Grandmother?” He called again as he opened the door to her bedroom. She was not in there, however, Red noticed the bed looked disordered. It was strange since his grandmother always cared about keeping her house orderly. He left the room and slowly walked into the den. His grandmother’s coffee table was tipped over. Claw marks covered the couch. He walked closer and saw a trail of blood leading from the couch to the backyard.
His eyes narrowed at the claw marks. He remembered Annabeth telling him that her pack never hunted humans. If one of the wolves from her pack had gone rouge, she would have been on edge or even mentioned it to him. Unless this was Annabeth’s doing. His gut did flips at the thought of Annabeth killing his grandmother. Had she gone rouge? He tightened his grip on the knife right as he heard his grandmother’s voice screech from the backyard. He ran as fast as he could to fling the door open.
“Grandmother!” He shouted from the steps. He sighed in relief when he saw the woman alive, frantically chasing a raccoon out of the yard with a broom.
“Get outta here! Damn vermin!” She shouted. When she heard her grandson, she turned around with a smile.
“Ah, Red. How ya doing?”
Red laughed quietly when he saw the raccoon try to sneak past his grandmother and into her garden. The woman smacked the creature on the head with her broom. The creature fell still long enough for her to pick it up and toss it back into the bushes. She walked over to her grandson while mumbling about the “damn coon.” The two walked into the house. Red found where he had placed the basket and handed it to the old woman.
“Thank you, Red. Why don’t you help me clean up this mess that damn coon made?” She took what she wanted from the basket making sure to sneak a couple sandwiches in for the boy’s lunch.
Red flipped over the fallen table while his grandmother scrubbed the blood on the carpet. She covered the scratch marks on the couch with a few pillows. Once they finished cleaning the mess, his grandmother returned the basket to him. He thanked her for the lunch and quickly hurried from the little cabin.
“Oh, Red, Dear,” his grandmother hollered. “Say hello to your pretty, little girlfriend for me!”
Red laughed as he shook his head. His grandmother had known about Annabeth for a few months. He returned to the spot where he and Annabeth had separated. The she-wolf was nowhere to be found, however, he did find an empty basket thrown to the ground. Several apples littered the path. His confusion turned to worry when he spotted a trail of blood on the ground. Following the trail, he clutched his knife tightly in his hand.
“Annabeth!” He shouted rushing to the young woman’s side as soon as he saw her. Blood soaked the dirt around her still form as Red crouched down to her side. She was alive but barely. Her body shook as she tried to mutter words to her lover. Red ignored her as ripped his tunic to shreds to attempt to stop her bleeding.
He never noticed Annabeth’s eyes widen in fright as a shadow loomed over the two of them. Red still did not understand as a large axe sliced through his upper body. Tears trickled down Annabeth’s face as her lover’s lifeless body toppled onto her. She used the last bit of her strength to place one last kiss to Red’s lip before her mossy colored eyes shut forever.
Their murderer, however, was not finished with his killing spree. There was an old hag up the path that had crossed him many years ago, it was time to return the favor.