"She had approached no nearer than twenty-five feet from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother but the wolf. It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be."
-James Thurber, "The Little Girl and the Wolf"
""Haven't you ever wondered why the wolf eats Grandma first?"
The question was unsolicited and off-topic, apparently just something on Nicolas' mind. Angela obliged him by shaking her head. “No,” she said, “I never have.”
The café was crowded and they sat almost shoulder-to-shoulder with the next table. Angela could tell that Nicolas was about to get on a roll with this subject and worried that he might elbow them if he used any of the sweeping hand gestures he was prone to when lecturing.
"The wolf meets Little Red Riding Hood in the forest and wants to eat her, right?” Nicolas said. He shoveled a bite of meaty lasagna into his mouth, staining his lips tomato-red; Nicolas had a way of talking with his mouth full that somehow never showed what he was chewing and never seemed rude. “So why not just eat Little Red then? Why bother impersonating Grandma?"
Angela pushed her salad plate away and glanced at her mostly empty glass of red wine. "I don’t know. I guess it is strange. Is there a reason?”
"It's because the story is all about sex," said Nicolas. "Grandma has to die first because if a sexually predatory male like the one the wolf represents wants to take advantage of a young girl like Little Red he has to make sure there are no maternal figures around to warn Little Red about guys like him."
"Oh?" Angela propped one hand under her chin, listening. She noted that the people at the next table were listening too.
"Uh-huh. I mean, you know why the hood is red, right?"
He was waiting for her to ask why. So she did.
“Red is the color of carnality, and of course red is the color of blood, which represents menstruation and sexual maturity," Nicolas continued. "Red is a warning color, and red is a color that means passion and emotion, and red is even the color of sin. That's why Little Red dies in some of the old stories; because she’s sinful."
Angela blinked. "Wait, Little Red Riding Hood dies?"
"Oh sure." Nicolas fumbled in his briefcase and brought up a dog-eared paperback book, handing it to her. She turned it over in her hand, skimming the back.
“You carry around books of fairy tales in your briefcase?” she said.
“What do you think the class I teach is about?”
She read the pages he indicated:
Meanwhile, the wolf arrived at Grandmother’s, killed her, put some of her flesh into the pantry and some of her blood into a bottle, then put on her clothes and climbed into bed. When Little Red Riding Hood arrived the wolf bid her eat and drink some of whatever she found in the pantry. When the little cat who lived in the cottage saw the girl eating the flesh of her own grandmother it screamed and ran away.
Angela made a face. “Charming.”
“That’s how they told the story in the old days. If you think that’s bad, you won’t like the ending.”
She kept reading:
“And Grandmother, what big teeth you have!” Little Red Riding Hood said.
“All the better to eat you with!” said the wolf. And with that he grabbed Little Red Riding Hood and ate her one bite at a time. The end.”
Angela put the book down. “Did they really read this to kids?”
“It wasn't meant to be a kid's story,” said Nicolas, shrugging. “But girls who were coming of age needed to be taught to beware of sexually aggressive men. That was the idea anyway. There are wolves everywhere, you know.” He winked, and she smiled. He brought out another book. “Now, if you didn’t like that, you should try this one instead.”
Angela opened the book's red leather cover and paged through it. At first it looked like another book of fairy tales, but these were different, and she saw it had only been written twenty years ago. Nicolas had again marked one for her to read.
She realized what time it was. “I have to get back to Anna,” she said. “My mother is watching her, but she has night classes.” She tried to give the book back, but Nicolas declined.
“Keep it,” he said. “I have others. You’ll like this one. Trust me.”
She put the book in her purse. They got the check and she insisted on splitting it. Nicolas cleaned his glasses on his shirt, and a few seconds passed. “It was really nice seeing you,” he said. “I wish we could more often.” He paused. “Do you think --?”
Angela stood. “I have to go. I’ll miss my bus.”
“I can give you a ride?”
“No, that’s all right,” she said.
He watched her leave. Outside it was grey and blustery. She saw the 44 retreating from the curb, red taillights blinking at her, and she ran after it, cursing. It was already out of sight by the time she got to the corner. Sighing, she sat on the plastic bench, reading the book Nicolas lent her while she waited for the next one:
In the truly dark, cold days of winter, nothing is more terrifying than the howling of wolves.
The forest is full of dangers, from pernicious goblins who twist off little boy’s toes and gobble them like candy, to red-eyed witches who flay the hides off young girls and sew curtains out of them, but wolves are the worst of all, because the wolf is the only creature whose hunger is never satisfied. He’ll eat you up, one-two, one-two, and be hungry again before you’re swallowed.
Angela giggled. She realized someone else had come into the bus shelter, sitting on the other end of the bench. He looked her up and down, smirking. She ignored him and kept reading:
The girl was too young to be alone in the forest, too young to know the difference between men and wolves, but she was not so young as to really be called a girl anymore. She was almost a woman, and that put her in even more danger. She was in full bloom, like the bobbing red blossoms of the burgundy roses that grew along the path.
The handsome stranger she met on the path seemed like any common hunter to her; she did not spot the feral gleam in his eyes or detect the telltale rumbling of his ever-hungry stomach and the bloody red stains on his teeth.
The man in the bus stop was younger than Angela, barely more than a teenager. He wouldn't stop staring at her legs. He might as well lick his lips, she thought. He coughed and said, "Where you going?"
"Home," she said, without looking up from the book. "To my daughter," she added, putting as much emphasis on the word as she could.
“I’m going to visit my grandmother,” the girl said. The man smiled.
“What a sweet little girl you are,” he said. “Red-cheeked, and as toothsome a morsel as any.” He laughed, and the girl blushed bright red and looked away, and so she did not see him lick the saliva off his long teeth.
The young man seemed taken aback at the mention of her daughter. Angela read on in silence. Then the young man leered, and said:
"Daughter, huh? She old enough to come out and play?"
Angela glared. The young man's grin wilted and he stood up straight, even blushing red and taking a few steps away. Angela put the book back in her purse and then shoved her hands in her coat pockets to hide their trembling. The man stammered something like an apology. Angela took a step toward him and then, thinking better of it, turned and walked away.
She followed Crossover Drive south, deciding she would cut through Golden Gate Park on foot. Probably faster than waiting anyway. She would have to hurry though; it was getting dark, and the clouds were threatening rain. Stands of huge trees sprang up around her. The words of Nicolas’ book ran through her mind:
Talking with the young man had made the girl late to her grandmother‘s; it was almost dark. She stayed on the path and tried to hurry. The woods were no place for her at night, and she was alone now that she’d left the handsome young man behind.
She hadn't been walking for more than five minutes when the rain started. At first she ran but then she realized that it wasn't any use; she'd be soaked by the time she got home no matter what. She kept to the side of the road, near the treeline, hoping to be spared the worst of it. The park was vacant, though every now and then the wind stirred the trees or the underbrush and gave the impression of movement. Now and then a car passed, too.
The girl did not realize that the young man was following her, that he had slipped off the path and slipped out of his clothes and traded his naked hide for the mangy pelt of a half-starved wolf. He followed after her, loping on all fours, a red tongue lolling while his tail brushed back and forth and, beneath him, his long prick bobbed along with each step.
Angela thought about the kid back at the bus stop and saw red. It was his fault she was stuck walking in this. She should have given him a piece of her mind. No, more than that, she should have torn him a new --
A red car pulled alongside her, a battered old clunker of indeterminate make and model. The passenger window had been repaired with duct tape, so the driver had to open the door and lean over in order to talk to her.
"Do you need a lift?" he said.
The girl tapped at the cottage door. Inside, the wolf hid the old woman's gnawed bones and the red-stained sheets and then slid under the blanket, using it to hide his hairy body and enormous prick. He raised his voice into a frail-sounding falsetto and said, “Come in, my lovely!”
Angela hesitated. She was soaked to the bone already and it would take at least another half an hour to get home on foot. But if she really wanted a ride she could just call Nicolas, and she wasn't sure she liked the look of this car...
"No, I'm okay, but thank you," she said. Or at least, that's what she tried to say. Her teeth were chattering too badly to form words, and only then did she realize how cold she really was. The driver pushed the car door open more and she climbed in. She held her pale, shaking hands to heater vents, waiting for the numbness to fade.
The girl came into her grandmother’s cottage and set her basket down on the table. The air was thick with a scent she did not know, but it was warm and there was a fire on, red flames licking old blackened logs.
Once Angela was warmed a bit she looked at the cracked plastic of the car dash, then at the threadbare state of the upholstery, and then at the driver; he was somewhere in his fifties, his graying hair and beard still touched with ginger. He gave her a reassuring smile. When her teeth finally stopped chattering, Angela cleared her throat and said, "Thank you."
"Not a problem," said the driver. They stopped at a red light. "You heading toward Lincoln Avenue?"
"Good, me too." And he smiled again. "Name's Charles."
"Pleasure to meet you. Boy, isn't this a day? What's a little lady like you doing out all by herself on a day like this?"
"Going home to my daughter."
"A daughter?" said Charles, smiling still. "Isn't that nice. She a little one? Pretty, like her mother? You know you don‘t look old enough to be anybody‘s mother."
The wolf, still speaking in Grandmother’s voice, welcomed the girl. “Hello my darling,” he said. “My, don’t you look lovely.”
Angela made a sour face and turned toward the window. "She's my youngest," she said, and then, "Do you have anything I can dry off with? I'm dripping all over."
"Well, water can hardly hurt this old heap now, but there's some napkins in the glove box. Don't mind the mess."
"Thank you," said Angela. She opened the glove box, paused for a moment when she looked inside, then did her best to towel herself off with the napkins. She realized that her purse was soaked too, and with alarm she saw the wrinkled pages of Nicolas' book. She pulled it out, fretting, trying to dry it on the heater vent.
"What's that?" said Charles.
"Just a book that my -- a friend lent me."
The pages riffled open, and her eyes fell across one, finding the place where she‘d left off:
The wolf is hungry forever. The gamey flesh of the scrawny old woman had not satisfied him. The young, pink, virginal flesh of this girl would fill his belly no better, for a wolf’s hunger is as much a part of him as the yellow eyes in his head or the withered red heart in his sunken chest or the black hairs that sprout from his backside, but his tongue lapped at his jaws anyway as he looked her up and down.
"Guess your purse couldn't stand up to the rain," said Charles. "You should get something like my messenger bag. It's waterproof." He indicated the bag in the back seat. “Handy thing to have with a kid around, I'd think. Who's looking after her while you're out?"
"My mother," said Angela. "We moved into her place a while ago."
"I love kids," Charles said. "Never had any. Always wanted some.”
"I’m so hungry, my darling,” said the wolf, still in Grandmother’s voice.
“I’ve brought you food,” said the girl. The wolf eyed her tender young breasts as they glanced against the fabric of her blouse.
“Yes,” he said, “you have.”
"She's all I have in the world," said Angela, still barely paying attention.
"Well what about your other ones? You said she's the youngest, so there must be more, right?"
The rain was coming down in sheets now, and Charles slowed the car to a crawl, almost blinded as the flimsy wipers failed to fight off the deluge. Angela's vision tunneled down onto a blank spot on the page in front of her, a space between two words. "I had another daughter," she said. "But she died."
Charles started. "I'm sorry!" he said. "I had no idea."
"She was murdered," said Angela. "She was only four. The man I was dating killed her."
"Jesus Christ!" said Charles. He looked at her, looked away, then looked at her again. "I didn't --"
The wolf is always hungry.
"We'd been going out for a month, and I still hadn't slept with him," Angela said. The words were tumbling out and she couldn’t stop. “So he decided he would get his action somewhere else. That's how he put it after, 'Get his action.'"
Charles stopped the car and tried to put a hand on her shoulder. "I'm so sorry," he said. "That kind of thing...it's so awful I just can't even bear to think about it."
"Yeah, it's hard to think about," said Angela. Then she looked up at him. "But it's easy to do, right? Easy, because you don't think about it when you do it. Not even when you're planning it, like now?"
“Why Grandmother, what big ears you have!”
Charles looked at her, bewildered. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"It's easy, right?” Angela said. “You pick up a woman walking alone, you make conversation, you find out where she's going, how many people are in the house, how many kids she has, everything you want to know."
“Why Grandmother, what big eyes you have!”
Charles blinked, disbelieving. "I don't --"
"And then there's these." She took the little red pill bottle out of the glove compartment and shook it. "Tell me, have you had that for more than four hours?" She indicated his lap. "Because if you have you should call a doctor."
Charles shifted in his seat. The car was stark still in the middle of the lane, but there was no traffic now, nothing outside except the wind and the rain and the trees. "Not that it's any of your business, but I was on my way to a date” he said. “At my age, you have to think ahead about these things."
“Why Grandmother, what big feet you have!”
“And the gloves, and the rope, and the hunting knife in the glove box, those all for your 'date' too?" Angela smiled, showing all her teeth.
"They're useful things to have around. Look, I understand that with all that you've been through it'd be hard to trust people, but I promise, I was just offering you a ride because of the rain, nothing sinister about it. I wouldn't lay a finger on you or your daughter." He paused. "In fact, I'm gay."
“Grandmother, what big hands you have!”
"You have a wedding ring."
"That was legal before Prop 8."
"You're married, but you have a date?"
His face turned red. "I don't have to explain myself to you. Now, if you don't trust me for whatever reason, fine, here."
He reached out and she shrank away, but all he did was open the door. The wind immediately blew the rain in, soaking her again.
"Go ahead,” he said, “walk if that's what you want. I won't stop you."
"That's not what I want," said Angela, closing the door.
"Well then, I'll give you a lift to the edge of the park," said Charles, going to put the car in gear again.
"That's not what I want either," said Angela. She put her hand on his knee. He started.
"What do you --?"
She smiled again. "What I want…"
She undid her seatbelt.
"…is to bite your fucking head off and spit out the bones.”
His jaw dropped. Thunder rolled outside.
"…teeth you have!”
"Lady," he said, voice quavering, "that's not funny."
"It's not?" said Angela. "Guess it's a good thing it wasn't a joke. I'm going to kill you. Right now."
“All the better to…"
Charles stuck a finger in her face. "Now you listen here, little miss, I've had just about enough --"
Angela reached over and snapped the gear shift off in her hand. The metal and thick red plastic splintered. Then she wrapped one hand around the steering wheel and pulled, breaking it off too. It landed in Charles' lap. She watched his red face go pale, and when she saw the first indications of shock she grabbed him and pulled him in close. She was still smiling, but her teeth had grown impossibly long. The hand that touched him was a gnarled paw. Her eyes gleamed. She growled.
"Here's how it's going to happen," said Angela, her voice suddenly thick and guttural. "I'm going to count to twenty, and then I'm going to kill you. You can stay here in the car and make it easy, or you can try to run. Your choice."
Charles stammered but didn't answer. Angela knew from the musty smell permeating the car interior that he had pissed himself. She began to count.
"One. Two. Three. Four."
She got to seven before he opened his door. He tried to run without undoing his seatbelt first and lost a few more seconds fumbling with it. He fell out, hitting the pavement and scrambling to his feet, and Angela watched him blunder off into the bushes. Had he stayed, there was a small chance someone driving by would have stopped to help. But traipsing through the park, off the road, in the storm, he would be alone. No help was coming.
She shed her clothes and followed at a distance, loping through the bushes, always keeping at least one tree trunk between them. The wind and rain blew on her naked body, buts he didn’t mind them now. He half-ran, half-stumbled, making enough noise for three people, slipping and skidding in the mud every other step. He kept looking over his shoulder. Angela watched him, amused, until he came to a place where the rain pooled at the base of a great tree, the exposed roots forming the banks of a puddle so deep it was almost a pond. Charles fell into it, then started wading.
On the opposite side, at the top of the hill, two homeless men huddled under a tarp for shelter. Charles began to wave and shout, and they looked at him. Angela waited until he had slogged halfway through the puddle and then threw her head back and howled, louder than the wind, louder than the rain, louder than the thunder. Charles fell to his knees and covered his ears, and the men on the hill ran.
Once they were out of sight she slid down the embankment and into the muddy water, wading over to Charles. They were both soaked, and the mud sucked at their feet, pulling them down. Charles backed against a hollow formed where the roots of the tree stuck out from the hillside. He gibbered and sobbed and whimpered. She grabbed him by the nape of the neck and dragged him to “dry” land.
"I wasn't going to do anything," said Charles, tears running down his mud-streaked face, mingling with the rain. "I wasn't going to hurt you, I swear."
"Of course," said Angela. She sat down on his chest and ran her fingers through his hair gently, almost lovingly.
"Please don't hurt me," said Charles, wincing as one of her claws glanced against his neck.
"You know when I found my daughter, she was all red."
"What?" said Charles, blinking, bewildered.
"Sarah, my oldest daughter. I came home after work and couldn't find her. I looked all over. I asked my boyfriend where she was, and he wouldn't answer. And that's when I saw that his hands were red." She gripped his shoulders tighter. "I found Sarah in the bathtub. She was red all over. Red inside the tub. Red all in her hair, just red, red all over, and I couldn't wash the red out no matter how hard I tried. It was in so deep. By the time I was done I had red all over my hands and it wouldn’t come off."
Charles closed his eyes "I'm sorry," he said. "I'm so sorry."
"I am too," said Angela.
They were concealed in a copse of bushes at the bottom of a small ravine. It was a good place. Burgundy roses sprouted up from between the roots of the trees here. Angela raked her paws down Charles' chest. "Take off your clothes," she said.
He blinked, disbelieving. "What?"
She yanked his belt snapping it into pieces. "Now," she growled.
It was hard for him to undress while she still restrained him, pinning his body between the hard muscles of her thighs, but with some "encouragement" he managed. He shivered on the ground; the rain had let up quite a bit and the foliage sheltered them from what was left, but it was still cold out, and the ground was hard. But Angela was in luck; modern pharmaceuticals provided everything she needed. She stuck her hand up Charles' legs and grabbed hold of the bulge there.
"You really got your money's worth on those pills," she said. Charles said nothing, only whimpering. He turned his head to the side. Angela straddled him harder and squeezed. "What's wrong?" she said. "You don't think I'm pretty anymore?" She licked the side of his neck; her tongue had grown impossibly long.
"I'll do whatever you want," Charles said. "Just don't hurt me."
Angela stroked his cock again. "What if hurting you is all I want?"
He began to scream for help, and she belted him across the face. He cried out again, but it was garbled; she thought she might have broken his jaw. Oh well. Angela slid her naked body down his, savoring the icy smoothness of the rain drops pressed between their hides. He was in good shape for a guy in his fifties; she admired the flatness of his flank and haunches. Her mouth watered. Her tongue and lips explored him. Now and then her sharp teeth grazed his flesh and he whimpered. Once she bit him, above the hip, just to get a taste, slapping a hand over his mouth to stifle his garbled scream.
When she got down to waist level she made a big show of licking the length of his cock and swirling her tongue around the bulging head. She snickered. "What's wrong?" she said. "You should be happy. You're getting lucky." She winked one enormous yellow eye. When she swallowed him he started to panic, thrashing, and it took her a second to realize why: He thinks I’m going to bite down, she thought. She seized him under the ribs and squeezed; the bones began to give way under pressure, and he stopped. If he'd moved around anymore she wouldn't have to hurt him, he'd end up doing it himself.
She bobbed her head up and down, sliding him in and out of her parted lips and open throat. All the while she stared at his face with glittering yellow eyes, and anytime he looked like he was getting too comfortable she let the tip of a fang touch him. He yelped. She was amused by the mismatch between what he felt and what his body was doing; he remained rigid and pulsing inside the hot, wet confines of her mouth. She felt him throb against her palate in a pleasing fashion. The swallowing motion of her throat inevitably made her think about eating. Maybe she should --
No. Not yet.
She sucked harder, closing her eyes and trying to forget where she was and who she was with. She thought about Nicolas for a second, but that relaxed her too much, so instead she thought about nothing at all except the surging, pumping organ trapped in her mouth. She wondered if she could make him cum; what would be more compelling, what he was feeling physically or what he was going through emotionally? She swirled her tongue around him more and more and wrapped her lips tight, making a wet seal around him. She even moaned so that his shaft would vibrate. The look on his face was hilarious.
After a time she grew bored and spat him out, climbing back up his body again. She pressed her muzzle against his face in a mock kiss. He had a blank, glazed look, and she wondered if he was in shock. She hoped not.
"Now wasn’t that nice?" she growled. "We're going something else now. You're going to learn what it was like for my daughter before she died. Of course, it won't be exactly the same thing, but we'll do our best, won't we?"
She expected the scream this time and headed it off by belting him across the mouth again; his jaw was red and swollen. She rolled him over, pushing his face into the ground. The blossoms of the red roses bobbed in the wind, like an audience of nodding heads. He squirmed and struggled again, hands clawing the mud, but he had little chance of getting away. She slid one long finger up the space between his ass cheeks and said, "You're going to make it a lot worse if you fight. Do you want to bleed? Because we can do it that way if you want."
He became still.
"Good boy," Angela said.
Slowly, almost gently, she pushed the tip of one finger into him. She heard him inhale and hold his breath; he ought to know that it's best to breathe, she thought, but didn't say so. She slid a little more in, and the muscles tightened and throbbed around her. Her hands were still wet from the rain, easing the passage a bit. She measured what he was feeling by how hard he arched his tight, tense shoulders. It was always easier once you got past the second knuckle, she knew, though her fingers were longer than usual, making it an arbitrary measurement.
"I hope you're doing all right up there," she said, "because that's only one."
He ducked his head.
"It's not so bad, is it? Hey, you should be used to this; you're 'gay' after all…"
She licked a second finger and when it was wet enough (for her, not for him) she pushed it in too, watching him quiver and shake. His muscles contracted and released, warring between the impulse to expel the intrusion and ease its passage. She realized she was grinding his dick into the mud and gave the side of his ass a few slaps, amused. The wound on his hip was still bleeding. When three fingers were wedged into the confines of his body, squeezed together and surrounded by the tight heat, she wiggled them a few times, just as an experiment, and his whimpers briefly awoke a flicker of pity in her. Maybe this was going too far…but the thought of Sarah's red-matted hair came back to her, and she clenched her jaw and ceased to care.
"We're not done yet," she said. "There's one more thing. It's a big thing, actually."
He put his hands over his head, pulling his hair, waiting.
"We're going to count to ten," she said. "Just to give you a little time to prepare yourself. It's only fair, after all. Ready? One, two, three…"
She wondered whether he would pass out. Sometimes they did that. In some ways it was disappointing, but in others it made it all easier at the end.
"Four, five, six…"
Well, she thought, there's actually no reason dragging this out longer than it has to go.
She pushed in early. All the way. He screamed, but the wind carried the noise away. With her other hand she grabbed his head and pulled it back, threatening to break his neck. "Do you feel that?" she said. "Imagine what that would feel like to a child who doesn't even know what's going on, someone who trusts you, someone who's young enough to love you without even knowing why or who you are. That's real pain. What you're feeling now isn't even close."
And then she pulled out and let him go. He rolled onto his side, fetal, eyes bulging, holding his abdomen (for some reason) and waiting for the pain to subside. She looked herself over; she was a mess. She went back to where the pool formed in the hollow base of the tree and washed herself as best she could. The water was filthy, of course, but it was better than nothing. She came back and grabbed Charles by his ankle, pulling him and throwing him back into the water, too.
"Clean yourself up," she said. He obeyed wordlessly. She squatted and watched his pathetic attempts to scrub the mud and filth off his body. When it looked like he'd done the best he was going to she stood, brushing her hands off. Might as well get this over with, she thought.
Even thigh-deep in water she moved so stealthily that he did not realize she was there until she grabbed him. She spun him around and he screamed again; her face must seem completely inhuman to him, now. She bared her teeth and made a motion for his throat, but he seemed to be trying to say something. It was hard to tell through his swollen jaw, but it sounded like:
"I don't deserve this."
Angela hesitated. "Maybe," she said, turning her head a little. "Maybe you don't. I don't know. I can't know for sure, ever.
"But," she grabbed him by his neck again, "I do have mouths to feed."
She pushed him down and held him under the water, waiting for the thrashing to stop. The drizzling rain ran in streamers down her pelt and the length of her muzzle. When she felt the body under her stop moving, she waited, counting to herself. When enough time had passed, she pulled him up again. He flopped around, limp. Satisfied, she dragged him to where the water lapped against the land, and there she bared her claws. Over the rain, there was a ripping sound.
The water turned red.
"I'm home," Angela said, closing the door behind her. She took off her wet coat and shouldered Charles' messenger bag. Her mother looked at her, blinking.
"You're soaked!" she said.
"I got caught in the rain. I'll be fine. I'm sorry I'm late. I had to stop and get dinner."
She put the bag on the table.
She found a dry towel and cleaned herself up again, then looked in on Anna, asleep in her bed. Angela showered, taking time to scrub the red crust under her nails, then she dried Nicolas' book by the heater. When it was done, she read the last page of the story she'd started:
"All the better to eat you with!” the wolf said, but the girl was not impressed. She kissed the wolf on his muzzle and made him sit on the floor, and she put a leash and collar around his neck, and that night he slept at the foot of her bed, snoring gently.
Because she knew she was no one's meat.
Angela laughed and put the book down, then called Nicolas.
"Did you make it home okay?" he said.
"Yes," she said, "but your book got a little wet. I can buy you a new one."
"Don't bother," he said, "I have lots more. I wrote it, you know."
She looked at the cover. "Your name isn't on it."
"A pen name, from when I was younger." He paused. "Did you like it?"
"Very much," she said, and she was about to say more but then Anna came out. Angela told Nicolas goodbye and then picked her daughter up and set her on her lap. "Did you have a good nap sweetheart?” she said. “Were you good for Grandma?"
Anna nodded and smiled; her little blue eyes glimmered and her red curls bounced. Then she said, "I'm hungry."
"Me too," said Angela, reaching for the messenger bag. She put her hand inside and when it came out it held something red and dripping to her daughter's mouth.
"Now eat up," Angela said, "while it's still fresh."