The Woods and the Wolf
Her feet carried her slowly, unwillingly, down the forest path. A hush had fallen, and the gentle clatter of branches and the quiet squeak of the fresh snow under her boots were the only sounds she could hear. The wolf was pacing her out at the edges of sight, no more than a grey whisper among the grey trees. It wouldn’t come any closer, not yet, but she could feel it waiting.
She pulled the crimson cloak closer around her against a cold she barely felt. It had been a gift from her grandmother, a token of an affection that now made her skin crawl. Under the sun, the cloak flamed, impossible to miss. Here, under the trees at the last tail of dusk, it faded to the color of old blood, melting into the dark as if it belonged there. The obscurity was strangely comforting.
She knew what waited for her at her grandmother’s house, but even now, she could hardly believe it. Perhaps that’s why her feet kept moving, kept treading the familiar path. They’d always told her she could trust blood, but they’d never said which side of her blood to trust. She might have known the ones with words to say it were the ones whose lies would slice at her, so subtly that she didn’t even know she’d been cut.
A mournful howl from the wolf broke the air, and the suppressed tears were suddenly painfully close to the surface. She pushed at the tears and the wolf, and gritted her teeth, thinking of the woodsman they planned to sell her to and trying to be angry. One overheard phrase this morning, and all those half-heard conversations had suddenly made terrible sense.
She could go, alone, and accept her fate, or… Her boots squeaked on through the snow, her feet getting colder with each reluctant step. She thought she’d been loved, the chancy lineage that had come to her through her mother forgotten. Years. Years, and she’d never for a moment suspected. Who were the beasts, then? The ones who roamed the dark woods, or the ones who walked upright and did such things as this?
She staggered to a halt and swayed, the snow falling white around her. She thought of the sharp eyes and brittle smiles, the lying embraces and treacherous affection. She looked at the crimson cloak, faded almost to black in the darkness. Then she stepped off the path, raised a hand, and called the wolf in.
This week’s Write at the Merge prompt at Write On Edge gave us a snow fall and a secret revealed for inspiration; so here’s another retold fairy tale for you. Thanks for reading!