Little Red Riding Hood

“Show yourself!”
Nothing. No more rustling.
Rose felt a slight breeze on the back of her neck. Without warning she whipped around and stepped to the side. The shadowy figure went sailing past her, going into a roll to break their fall.
The figure got up and dusted themselves off. It was a boy Rose’s age, with yellow eyes. He also had ears, pointed teeth and a tail.
Rose smiled at the boy. “I told you, you can’t sneak up on me, Howle.”

A story about Rose, who wears a red cape with a red hood, and Howle, her best friend with sharp teeth, ears and a tail.

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1. Rose and Howle

Little Red Riding Hood strolled through the forest. The dirt puffed with every step she took. The trees muttered amongst themselves as the breeze whistled. Little Red Riding Hood was taking some strawberry tarts to her grandmother. Her grandmother wasn’t sick, or dying, or anything like that. She was just a bad cook. Frankly, she was a terrible cook. Everyone in the forest new that.

And, Little Red Riding Hood was not the girl’s real name. Her name was in fact Rose Hood, but everyone knew her because of the hooded red cloak she wore. Her mother made her wear the cloak, well, for that exact reason, so everyone knew her.

Rose hummed under her breath as she walked, just something to fill the silence.

She heard dead leaves crunching in the shadows behind her. She turned around slowly and scanned the dark spot with narrowed eyes. Nothing. Rose continued on her way.

Rustle, rustle. SNAP.

A twig breaking. Rose spun around and studied behind her. There. The shadow beside the tree.

“Hello?” Rose called. “Anyone there?”

No reply. More rustling. She had lost sight of the shadow.

“Show yourself!”

Nothing. No more rustling.

Rose felt a slight breeze on the back of her neck. Without warning she whipped around and stepped to the side. The shadowy figure went sailing past her, going into a roll to break their fall.

The figure got up and dusted themselves off. It was a boy Rose’s age, with yellow eyes. He also had ears, pointed teeth and a tail.

Rose smiled at the boy. “I told you, you can’t sneak up on me, Howle.”

Howle smiled. “Doesn’t mean I can’t try.” He held out a flower for Rose. It was a daisy, slightly squashed from his roll on the ground. “So, Red,” he said, using his pet name for Rose. “What’s with the new décor?” He motioned to her cloak.

Rose sighed. “Give me a break, the only thing that has been said to me all day is ‘is that a new cloak, Rose?’ Yes, it is, you can obviously see it is new, so why ask?!”

The wolf boy laughed.

“And,” Rose continued. “It’s way too red. The old one was a nice rosy colour, but this is one is just yuck. Do you think it will fade if I wash it lots?”

“Maybe,” said Howle. “It doesn’t look yuck, it looks fine.”

“You say everything looks fine!”

“That’s because everything is fine!”

Howle narrowly dodged a slap, but couldn’t avoid the kick in the shins. He also couldn’t avoid hearing the laugh and seeing the smile that accompanied it.

Rose continued on her way again, but with Howle at her side.

“So, where you going Red?” asked Howle with a grin.

“To Grandmother’s,” answered Rose. Howle’s grin faded a bit.

Rose noticed. “It’s just to give her the strawberry tarts. Then we can go explore, I promise!” she assured.

“Your Gran doesn’t like me.”

“She just can’t see past the ears and the tail, that’s all.”

“I don’t think so.” Howle swished his tail despondently. “I think she’s still mad at the unmentionable.”

“No, Grandmother said that that was all water under the bridge now.”

“I dunno…”

The unmentionable was when Howle was mistaken for eating Rose’s grandmother. Apparently he had tied her up and shut her in the closet. Hunter, the lumberjack that lived next door had come around to give grandmother her daily load of firewood. He found Howle knocked out cold among the shattered remains of a rather large milk jug; Rose fainted in a heap on the floor, and something rattling around in the closet.

Rose had been revived, and an ice pack put on Howle’s head for the large lump Rose had put there. Grandmother had been untied. The story was, she had fallen asleep while knitting. She was a very restless sleeper, and had gotten tangled in her wool. She had gone into her closet to find her knitting supplies, to see if she could find her scissors. It was just coincidence that Howle had come into her house searching for food, and Rose found him, but Howle still thought Grandmother was a bit angry at him for rooting through her cupboard, eating almost everything in sight.

Anyway, everything had been sorted out. Once Rose apologised for hitting Howle on the head, they became the best of friends. Hunter came around more often to see Grandmother, first to check if she was okay, then to have dinner – Hunter was an even worse cook than Grandmother – and then just to spend time with her. Eventually, the two got married. All water under the bridge.

Grandmother’s cottage was coming into view. It was a quaint little place, covered with ivy on one side and a bed of flowers out the front. Rose and Howle said their goodbyes, and Rose skipped up the path to the door. Letting herself in, she called “Grandmother!”

Her grandma was sitting at the kitchen table studying a new knitting pattern Rose plonked her basket down on the table. “Look, I brought you some strawberry tarts. They’re fresh. Mother made them this morning.”

The old lady looked up. “Oh, wonderful, dear. Let’s have one now, shall we?”

Rose set out plates for her and her grandmother, and was pouring glasses of water when Grandmother said, “Rose, what’s this?”

Rose replied without turning, “Do you mean the new knitting needles? Mother said – “

She was cut off. “No, this.” Rose turned. Pinched between Grandmother’s fingers was a hair. “What is this?”

Rose stared silently.

“It’s a wolf hair,” the older woman continued. “Probably from that villain Howle!”

“You don’t know him!” burst out Rose. “You don’t know him at all. He’s a nice person! Good!”

“I will not have my granddaughter hanging with some rouge who is only going to betray her and break her heart! You’re only sixteen; you wouldn’t know how to pick your friends properly!”

“Did it even occur to you,” Rose spat icily, “that I might know who my friends are more than you would?”

With that statement, she swept out of the room.

Rose made her way to her favourite clearing in the whole forest. It was by the river. You could hear the water chuckle and burble, and that part of the river was shallow enough to walk in. She spent whole days by the river in summer. But her favourite thing about it was the rock. It was large and flat, big enough for four people to sit on, side by side. Rose sat down on the rock now, and cried into the hem of her cloak.

Howle found her a few minutes later.

He put his arm around her shoulders, and sat his tail on her lap. Rose leaned into him and tried to stifle her tears.

“What happened?” asked Howle gently.

“Grandmother and I had a fight again,” sobbed Rose. “She found one of your wolf hairs on me, and she told me you we a villain who is only going to betray me and break my heart. It’s not true! You wouldn’t do that…” the rest of the sentence was lost in hiccups and tears.

“No, I wouldn’t,” murmured Howle. “We promised we’d always stay together, didn’t we? And that’s what we’ll do.”

Rose wiped her eyes and smiled at her wolf friend. “Thank you, Howle,” she said, hugging him. “You always seem to make things better.”

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