So I wrote a retelling of Red Riding Hood. Here it is. Enjoy?
The darkness festers. There are clusters of silence bunched in shadowy corners. A congregation of unsung lullabies because this kind of darkness is never meant to be slept in.
They live in an apartment on the outskirts of the city. The little girl, her mother and her stepfather.
At this moment, her mother is shoving clothes, an inhaler, a picture book in the little girl’s backpack. Her teddy bear falls to the ground unnoticed.
The little girl is about six. Short for her age. She has big green eyes. Red hair that lies like a mantle over her shoulders. Her mother makes her wear a black cloak in an effort to hide the red but unruly strands escape and announce their presence to whoever may be looking.
“Listen,” her mother’s grip on the girl’s shoulder is hard. It hurts. “Listen!” There is hysteria threaded in with the alcohol in the mother’s voice. “You have to go to your grandmother. Tell her,” here her mother pauses, stifles a sob and then takes a deep breath. “Tell her she was right. And I was wrong. Tell her I am sorry. Can you do that, baby?”
The little girl looks at her mother. The bloodshot eyes, the wan cheeks and the lips that cannot hold up a smile no matter how faint make up a person the little girl no longer recognizes. She finally nods because she cannot shake her head, because it is expected. There is a sudden noise from the other room and they both freeze. No other sound follows.
They breathe again.
The little girl is given a scrap of paper with her grandmother’s address on it, some money and a hug. In that order. The hug feels foreign and smells strange. The little girl pushes away as soon as she can.
“I’ll distract him so that you can slip out. Take a taxi. Do not come back here, okay? I’ll come for you as soon as I can.” The last was a lie. The little girl knows it. Her mother knows it. The soft toys on the unmade bed know it. The lie is a sour taste in the air.
The little girl with the red hair, green eyes and a black cloak on manages to get out of her apartment unnoticed. It is nearly 11 o’clock at night. The girl follows the sidewalk faithfully into the metal and cement forest of the city. The alleyways where the darkness was particularly thick called to her, offering places to hide and the wrong kind of safety. The little girl walks with her eyes trained toward the flashing lights of the city.
She doesn’t know when he moved in. The Wolf. One day it was her Stepfather – awkward, musty and old and the next day he was gone. Instead the Wolf looked at her through her Stepfather’s faded blue eyes. His gaze lingered at her chest where her breasts were but a promise, at her legs covered with fine down, at her neck where it met her shoulder. Hot looks that made the little girl want to scrub scrub scrub.
Then the touches began. A stroke of her hand – innocent – a hug that was too close but still innocent – a caress under her skirt – not innocent at all. And yesterday when she came home after school and was washing her face in the bathroom, the Wolf had sidled in and pressed his face into the back of her neck. He had whispered to her in that hoarse rough voice.
“I want to eat you up,” he had said.
He had licked his lips, the Wolf.
The little girl walks faster. Past the pizza place, past the laundromat, past the arcade, past her childhood resting in the playground. People pass her, pretend not to see her because seeing her makes them responsible. People hate being responsible. Cars whizz by and the girl wants to be the flash of colour they leave behind. She looks around for a taxi but she doesn’t know how to approach a driver.
“Where are you going, little girl?” A voice above her asks and the little girl starts violently, fear flooding her mouth. An acid taste, sort of like vinegar only more bitter.
She looks up at the man. He’s dressed in a uniform. A policeman. The girl remains tense until he crouches down to meet her eyes. Then she lets out a tiny breath. He smells like cinnamon. Cinnamon, apples and the woods. A green smell. Mutely, the girl hands out the scrap of paper. He takes it, unfurls it, reads it.
“This the address you’re going?”
The girl nods. She is hungry now.
“The money’s for a taxi?”
She nods again.
“Tell you what, I’ll drop you off to this place. Does that sound okay?”
The girl looks at the policeman for a long moment and then acquiesces. She lets him pick her up and take her to his car. He straps her in carefully.
In the police car, while traveling the black roads, she wonders what her grandmother is like. Because her mother’s mom had opposed both of her mother’s marriages, the girl hasn’t ever met her. She has heard her voice on the telephone and seen her in pictures – a faded glory dripping in diamonds.
The ride ends too soon. They are outside a cement tree propped up by iron rods. The elevator gives her four reflections – distortions – of herself. She moves closer to the policeman.
Her grandmother opens the door on the third ring. She’s dressed smartly. White business suit, red stilettos, red lips and blonde hair courtesy of a bottle. The girl keeps her gaze downcast after a quick look. There are questions which the policeman answers. After a squeeze of her shoulder, he leaves.
The girls stands in the doorway watching him disappear around the corner. Her backpack is heavy. She’s hungrier.
“Well, aren’t you coming in?” Her grandmother’s voice is full of broken glass. The girl raises her eyes to meet her gaze. Then goes completely still. Not daring to breathe or move as her grandmother looks at her, arms crossed, red lips twisted. The girl sees. She sees the Wolf smiling at her through her grandmother’s faded blue eyes.