Summary: Little Red Riding Hood. Ten years later, as the Wolf Moon approaches, the girl that wore the cloak reflects on how she's grown to be since that pivotal day in the forest. Completely unrelated to "Red Under the Moon."
A/N - "Wolf Moon" is the common name given to the full moon after the Winter Solstice, typically in January.
It's been nearly ten years now.
The Hunter's Moon has passed, as has the Frost Moon, bringing no frost with it.
Everything will come full circle after the Yule has passed, the "New Year" greeted, and then... The Wolf Moon.
Ten years gone. So much done, so much changed, and I find I can't help myself - remembering you, and what you were to me. What you've always been, even if I didn't really understand it at the time, which I only know now looking back.
Funny how I was back then, wasn't it? I was so like the ancient moon goddess that the Greeks and the Romans revered, the maiden huntress, the lady of the forests. I kept to myself, I spurned the expectations and company of most other people, swore I'd more than likely live and die a maid, alone and happy, content to be just myself, all by myself, thank you very much. A little girl in her fairy-tale, all alone but for the stardust that she gathers to herself.
Nature couldn't have any of that now, could she? No, no, no!
You certainly couldn't either.
You stalked up on me, quietly, confidently, following me, as I walked the path that my well-intentioned mother had mapped out for me, shown to me, said was the right way through the forest. The safe way, she said. The proper way, she said. What does a thirteen-year-old girl know of a mother's folly in her failure to inform her daughter that mother's way is not necessarily the way? Nothing of course. "Mother knows best, listen and obey me!"
I can just hear you laughing at that. I laugh at it, too. Mother's only human.
It was sunny and cold that day, as it only is when it's that time of year that the Wolf Moon shines. That day that you ceased creeping in the shadows by me - smirking to yourself all the while, I'll bet - and made yourself known. Heavens above, you were so charming! Ha ha! The leer in your eye, the smile on your face, the growl in your voice, the proud air of your shoulders as you carried yourself so gallantly to introduce yourself. How winning you were.
Good day! Good day to you.
How fare you and where are you going? I fared well, but my grandmother did not, Mother said, so I was going to see her now.
Where does Grandmother live? Just over the river and through the woods.
Would you mind if I accompanied you awhile? Not at all! I would like that, and be glad of the company.
Wolfish smiles, wolfish graces and charms.
Why is your cloak so red? Because Grandmother made it that way.
But why? I love red, I always have, and I spend much time outside, under the sky, that is why Grandmother made this cloak, and made it red.
It's lovely. Thank you.
You're lovely. Thank you.
Perhaps I could show you how lovely? ... I pretended you said nothing, pretended to not understand, and blushed, smiling the whole time. But nothing escapes you.
Wolfish leers, wolfish singing, and gestures at wild woodland flowers.
So much beauty off the path that Mother wanted me to walk, all around. You seemed to treat it with the importance of life and death as you pointed it out to me. The flowers, the trees, the deeper places that were not seen but were there. Secrets and adventures. Not here, not on this path.
On your own way, you said. Come with me, let me show you.
A dying old woman, you said, already dead. Dead and alone at the end of the path.
Was it the earnestness in your eyes - so wild and alive - that changed my mind? Or is that the way of Nature? "You can't fight Nature," they say. They're right. For off the path I went, with you, into the thick of the trees that hid us. Into the flowers, the deep twilight of the forest where secret things are, more ancient than anyone will ever remember.
It felt wrong. It wasn't what Mother would have quite wanted or approved of.
It felt right. It was what I needed.
At the time I didn't understand why I needed it so much. But need it I did, and I felt it - I wanted it too much in spite of myself.
There were moments when it scared me, shocked me, made me cringe at what Mother might say. You didn't care, of course, wild thing that you are. You always do as you please, whatever is right, whatever is natural. Guilt would only haunt you if you actually allowed yourself to sit still in a cage.
So I let your songs to the moonlit skies soothe me, let your shameless wolfish charm make me smile, let this new thing that I kept feeling and sensing take over and lead me, guide me - and I was well. It was wondrous and beautiful. You were beautiful. We went well together, you and I.
I had heard stories and tales of your kind my whole life and loved them. But never once, when I was a child, did I think that I would actually love one of you, upon meeting you. I had understood your kind to be the villains lurking at the door. You were dangerous, not to be trusted. Yet there it was - me with you, you with me, both of us together and loving it all the while, saturated with life and joy.
I never did get back on that path ever again. Grandmother was dead and buried before I went to her house for the last time in my life. After a couple of years, I had stopped wondering even casually, "What would Mother say?" Every time that I ran out under the sun and stars with you, away from the houses and the paths, deep into the forest, taking my own way with you all the while.
I did not know then what I understand now, about what it was about you that enchanted me so.
You were everything that I was scared of, everything that I avoided. You were everything that I delighted in, everything that I admired. You were everything that I was not, but in the weirdest way, everything that I was - only dared not be.
Essentially, you were me. The opposite half of me. The Animus.
Everything that you were, I was going to become.
As I grew over the years, became more and more familiar with you, the more I grew to become as you were. Your wild spirit and lust for freedom, your confidence, your ferocity, your stealth and sly ways all became mine. I became you.
I looked at myself in the mirror only a while ago, and saw the difference that ten years made, after you crept up on me. My hair is more than twice as long as it was when I met you, and I'm four inches taller. I'm not skinny anymore, there is a softness to me now that is easy to hold - so I am told. The lights in my eyes are different as well. They used to shine with a clever young girl's bright spirit. Now they gleam with the fire of a wiser, wilder creature, more cunning and more fierce, and not so innocent. All that I lack are paws and a tail.
Everything that you were, I was going to seek out.
I am married now.
Funny! I know! Ten years after a time when I had sworn that I needed no one, that I wanted no one, that no one was for me, and that I was always going to be on my own and all the happier for it. I was wrong. I always knew it, somewhere at the core of me, even if I never allowed myself to think it. Here it is, I've spent a little more than half of those ten years since I first encountered you living in bliss with him.
I wasn't looking for him when I found him, nor he for me. But there we were.
The inferno that I felt in my body and soul for him made whatever flame I had ever carried for you seem as only the shadow of smoke, and you were very precious to me.
You always will be.
He's a woodsman. Would it surprise you? That I would fall so in love with such a man and happily accept him as my one and only mate? A man of the forest? A hunter?
No. No, it wouldn't surprise you at all. In fact you'd be proud of my choice.
He's everything that you ever were. Loyal to those he that loves, and lethal to everyone else. A magnificent and dedicated protector and keeper of his family and his forest, like you. A man who will die free, making his own way, come what may.
He is you.
... Save for not having large pointed ears and a long snout.
Everything that you ever encouraged me to have, to become, has come to be since I went off the path for the first time with you, ten years ago under that Wolf Moon.
Ten years, and the good girl in the red hood is a she-wolf.
Ten years, and she still howls to the moon in the winter sky with no regrets, smiling back at the sparkling stars. The glistening snow clings to her thick pelt now, but she needs no grandmother's cloak to keep her warm.
Not after ten years, and all that's passed within them.
A/N - This was a "One Night Write." The sun goes down, you write until your mind oozes out of your skull through your ears and hits the floor with a *squish!* (or until bedtime), you make it as good as you can in that time. Crazy, but fun... Fun for a writer, anyway.