Little Red Riding Hood,
Pure as winter`s snow,
Untainted by all that is cruel,
Naive wherever you go,
“Off to Grandmother,” your mother says,
She`s sick in bed you see,
With a loaf of bread, a bottle of milk,
And nectar of honey`s bee,
Into the woods off far away,
To Grandmother`s, you must set course,
But be wary, Little Red Riding Hood,
Of wolves – or face remorse,
Robyn ran. She ran as fast as she could past the neat rows of houses of her neighbourhood, her raggedy, tattered boots crunching against the snow on the frozen sidewalk. She concentrated on the path in front of her, taking no notice of the winter wonderland around her, completely covered in fluffy white powder. Her scarlet-red backpack was the brightest object that could be seen in the ashen scenery.
She turned the corner and being careful not to trip, rushed up the front steps of her house and hurriedly unlocked and opened her front door, which at first resisted in its frozen state. Warmth filled her body and reached the tips of her fingers as she stepped inside. She was in – safe.
The door locked with a resounding click as she slammed the study door. Robyn slumped against the white-washed wall and slid down to the ground, obviously exhausted from her marathon home. As her heavy panting ceased, she listened downstairs for any sound or movement. Other than the chatter of the neighbours outside, there was nothing. She had made it home before anyone else.
Slowly, Robyn raised her head and eyed the sleek, new computer on the rickety, old desk. The feeble-looking legs looked as if they were about to snap at any second, despite the computer’s small size. Robyn warily sat down in front of the screen trying not to imagine the whole desk collapsing on top of her, the expensive computer along with it. This computer was the only appliance in the house dated from after the millennium. She had had enough trouble trying to convince Beatrice and her dad to buy it – if it were to come to any harm, Robyn would be sent back to the 80’s, with its beeping pagers and bulky cassette players.
Robyn switched on the power and sat back impatiently, rapping her fingers on the keyboard as she waited for the computer to boot up. As the screen flashed blue and the sunset background of her desktop loaded, she relaxed. As she clicked on the internet icon, and logged onto Nexus Forums, a small smile crept onto her face. Her fingers sprang to life – a blur across the keyboard – as Robyn animatedly picked up the silent conversation on her screen. Music, movies, hot political debates, or just plain nonsense – Robyn could ‘talk’ about anything online. She felt at ease with the internet community, every user as anonymous as she was, unable to judge by appearance or physically harm. What more could she want in a social life?
Robyn opened a new window and logged into another site – an online hangout. With her arrow-shaped cursor, she moved her 3-D character about, talking to other users here and there.
Lupine_306: can anyone help me?
Robyn instantly answered the user.
Red-Rose: course – are you new?
Lupine_306: yeah. I need some help getting used to how things work...
Red-Rose: i’ll help you. Can you open a private window? Or do you not know how to do that
Lupine_306: well i know that much.
A private chat window flickered onto Robyn’s screen.
Red-Rose: what do you need to know?
Do not stray off the path,
Resist the urge of temptation,
No matter how harmless or friendly it seems,
Trust no one`s consolation,
“Robyn, why won’t you wear the new dress I gave you for Christmas? I bought it for you just for occasions like this,” said Beatrice.
“I...I don’t want to,” Robyn replied without looking up at her stepmother’s face. Who would want to wear such a thing? It was an atrocity: a silk red gown that held not a hint of comfort or security. She might as well be naked in a crowded room. “In fact, I’m not going altogether.”
Beatrice said nothing. She simply stared at Robyn, who avoided her gaze by staring in between her toes. “Robyn, look at me when I talk to you.”
Robyn didn’t move, still intrigued by her two feet. Beatrice stepped towards her and lifted her step-daughter’s chin with one hand. Robyn broke away and turned back to the computer screen. “You can’t make me go,” she stated firmly.
“It’s a family reunion. It won’t be the same without you. And I really wanted you to meet the rest of your new fami-”
“You’re not my real mother and they’re not my family! They’re complete strangers to me. I see no reason for me to go. Dad can go if he likes, but I’m staying here.” Robyn’s voice quavered as she spoke. What she had said was the truth; she didn’t want to go to the reunion at all. But she couldn’t help but feel a stone drop in the pit of her stomach as she knowingly hurt her step-mother.
Beatrice stayed silent. With her back to the older woman, Robyn couldn’t tell if she was livid or just crying.
“Fine,” she said coldly, “I’ll tell your father. There are leftovers in the fridge. We’ll be back quite late, probably around 12am.” And with that, Beatrice briskly walked out of the study, closing the door behind her.
Robyn didn’t look back. She merely returned to talking to her friend, Lupine_306, whom she had met online only a month before. She had been talking to him before Beatrice had interrupted her.
Red-Rose: sorry for the late reply. My step-mother came in to bother me.
Lupine_306: what for?
Red-Rose: oh...she was forcing me to come to this family reunion of hers...why should I have to go? We’re not even blood-related!
Lupine_306: well, if u really feel uncomfortable about it, your right - she shouldnt force u.
That’s what Robyn loved about Lupine. He didn’t judge Robyn or contradict her. He understood her.
Red-Rose: UGH...she’s so IRRITATING!
Lupine_306: really? Wow, now i can see what your getting at with those fairy tales. You know, the ‘evil’ step-mother? lol...not surprising that u have one of your own, being a princess yourself *wink*
Robyn grinned. Lupine often joked about her username and its reference to fairy tales. She had loved fairy tales in her younger days, watching a video from her collection of Disney movies every Saturday and reading all sorts of books about them. She even pretended to be a princess herself: Princess Rose of the Emerald Kingdom. The name had stuck with her over the years. Of course, Robyn had already told Lupine this.
Lupine_306: So, princess, your staying at home alone for the night then?
Red-Rose: yeah, so what if i am
Lupine_306: u wouldnt want any unwanted vistors now, the worlds a dangerous place u know.
Red-Rose: ha – i think i can handle them.
Lupine_306: dont you need a knight in shining armour to protect u? A prince even?
Beware, Little Red Riding Hood,
For lustful eyes follow every move,
Furtive in the shadows, a facade in the light,
A wolf’s innocence, yours to prove,
Robyn furrowed her eyebrows as she read what Lupine said. A knight in shining armour or a prince? Was he implying something?
Red-Rose: i think your going a little too far with this fairy tale thing lupine. lol...
Lupine_306: no, Im being perfectly serious here. Didnt you watch the news? Says theres some dangerous men on the loose. burglars and sexual predators...
Robin leaned back in her chair. She did remember hearing something about some kidnappings happening around her area. But how did Lupine know that? She never gave out any information. She of all people would never be so careless.
Robyn exhaled and slowly typed up a reply. She decided to take a chance.
Red-Rose: How did you know that there have been dangerous men around where i live?
She hoped it was just a lucky guess.
Lupine_306: u go to forrest secondary right? I remember you mentioning something about that. I live around the same area.
Robyn stiffened. She reread the sentence again. When had she told him that?
Lupine, reading her mind, answered before she got to ask.
Lupine_306: we were talking about school dances and how you never went to them and u mentioned it then, remember?
Robyn’s posture slackened. She did remember that conversation. Although she couldn’t quite shake off the queasy gut feeling she was experiencing. Her stomach churned as if it was doing somersaults repeatedly. It was a terrible feeling, but Robyn ignored it. She hadn’t eaten yet, that was all.
Red-Rose: u live around here?
Lupine_306: yeah, just off of jamieson.
Robyn was appalled about how blunt Lupine was being. Here she was, a complete stranger, who didn’t even know his real name or even glimpsed at his face, and yet, he had told her exactly where he lived.
Red-Rose: ...why did u just tell me that?!
Lupine_306: what about it? We’re friends arent we?
She slumped onto one elbow, resting her chin in one open hand. It was true, yes, she did consider Lupine to be a friend – a better and closer friend than the very few she had – that she actually had. Robyn had to face the facts: she had more friends online than in the real world, but was she really willing to get closer to these people – to Lupine – when she hadn’t even seen his face?
Lupine repeated his question.
Lupine_306: we’re friends, right?
Robyn had to answer – and fast. What she would say next would determine this relationship, whether it would be strengthened into a golden chain or broken, with the shattered pieces left to gather in the dust. Her heart rate increased and her hands shook as she typed up her answer.
Robyn could imagine the smile that was probably plastered on Lupine’s face as he read this. But, if he did, why didn’t she?
Lupine_306: will you tell me your name?
Time had stopped. Robyn couldn’t hear the whirling of the computer’s hard-drive or feel the chill creeping up her spine from the unheated room. She could only see the six words that made up Lupine’s question and only think to answer.
A toothy grin and witty charm,
The wolf puts on display,
Like a moth to a flame, hearts are drawn,
To sin and disobey,
It was quarter to eight when Robyn reached Aldergrove Park. She couldn’t believe that she had actually come; it wouldn’t register into her brain. Her body had moved on its own as she ran Lupine’s message through her head over and over, like a broken record player:
Lupine_306: Your not up to anything right? If u want, u can come by aldergrove park around 8ish. I walk my dog around there every night. It’s cold outside though, so dress warm if u decide to show up.
A meeting – how did it end up like this?
Robyn cleared the snow off the graffiti-covered bench and sat down. She could turn back; there was still a few minutes before Lupine would even show up.
But she didn’t move. Maybe it was because she was frozen to the bench, or maybe the curiosity got the better of her. Whatever the reason was, there was no denying the fact that her stomach was still churning and she had already eaten.
‘Lupine - he’s my friend. Yes, there’s no question about that. He’s always there to talk to whenever I’m lonely or sad. I can talk to him about anything!’ Robyn thought to herself. But then she wondered...
Lupine had never said much about himself. He only listened to whatever was troubling her. He had never told her his name...
Robyn looked up. Not a meter away was a man, a tall man dressed in a long winter coat, snow boots, and a black scarf tucked under his chin. He was young, but quite a few years older than Robyn herself; probably in his early to mid twenties. His expression was a kind one mixed with exhaustion and concern. But what really caught Robyn’s attention were the man’s eyes: a misty gray that just seemed to pierce right through her.
This was Lupine.
“You’re Robyn, right?” he asked politely. His voice was that of a grown man’s. Robyn couldn’t believe it was this adult she was talking to all this time. She felt childish – embarrassed.
She couldn’t look away. She couldn’t hide her eyes under her bangs or stare at her shoes. His gaze locked in hers. She felt utterly exposed.
“Yeah, that’s me,” Robyn managed to blurt out. Finally, she managed to break away from his transfixed stare and look around the park. Suddenly, she noticed something.
“I thought you were walking your dog.”
Lupine let out a sheepish chuckle and looked around, following Robyn’s example. “He’s a big dog, you know. He gets excited easily and managed to get away from me – leash and everything – into the bushes. Will you help me find him? His names Sawyer – a golden retriever.”
Robyn’s stomach did another flip. But the words slipped out of her mouth before she could even think. “Okay.”
Beware, Little Red Riding Hood,
Not everything meets the eye,
A wolf in sheep’s clothing is still a wolf,
A lie is still a lie,
Robyn stepped over a dead log, long frozen over, past the giant evergreens into the dark. In her hand she held one flashlight, provided by Lupine (whom she still didn’t know the actual name of, she realized). Left, right, behind one tree, inside a bush – nothing.
“My, Grandma, what big eyes you have!”
“All the better to see you with my dear.”
“...Lupine!” she shouted, not knowing what else to call him, “are sure your dog came this way? I checked every nook and cranny of this area!”
“Hey! I think I found him, Robyn! Come over here!” echoed Lupine’s voice.
Robyn complied. She walked towards the direction of his voice, brushing away dead branches along the way. Her flashlight dimmed with every step. Robyn smacked the end of it three times, making it flicker on and off. “Lupine!” she called out again, “My flashlight’s dying! Where are you?”
“My, Grandma, what big ears you have!”
“All the better to hear you with my dear.”
Robyn took a few more steps forward and called out again. Lupine didn’t answer.
A gut-wrenching thought occurred to her: what if something had happened to him? “Lupine!” she called out a third time. Silence.
Something rustled in the bushes beside her. Was it Sawyer? Lupine?
Robyn ran. She ran as fast as she could past trees and bushes, not caring if her coat and face became scratched and bloody in the process. Her heart pounded in her ears and against the rib cage of her chest. She was running so hard that she didn’t even see where she was going.
She tripped and dropped the flashlight, which burnt out on contact with the snow. Robyn was blind, lost in the middle of the woods.
“LUPINE!” she yelled out in a panic. Tears poured out of her eyes. Why had she come? Why hadn’t she seen this coming?
“My, Grandma, what big teeth you have!”
“All the better to eat you with my dear.”
Two sturdy hands grasped her neck and pushed her against the trunk of a tree. Robyn could feel the heavy breath of the other person not an inch away from her face. The grip on Robyn seemed to cut off her circulation. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t move. She was cornered like a rat.
“The world’s a dangerous place, you know.”
She immediately recognized the voice.
Lupine gave a small laugh. “Where’s your knight in shining armour, Robyn? Where’s Daddy and Beatrice?”
Robyn said nothing. She simply stared straight where Lupine’s face would be, without giving the smallest amount of resistance. In the dark, he could not see if she was livid or just crying.
Little Red Riding Hood,
Pure as winter`s snow, they said,
Led astray – deceived – no one to save you now,
White teeth enclose – blood red.