Look for the Branch and Take a Leap

by Gracie Jane

I had fun writing this one, the story just came to mind when I was thinking about my new love for fairy-tale spin offs 👀. Little Red Riding Hood, who?

As always, I’m grateful for feedback, and please enjoy! What’s your favorite fairy-tale book spin off? Mine favorite has to be the Lunar Chronicles (which will probably be the target for my next book review). Let me know your’s!

Ruby dashed through the woods, passing the lake, towards the wolves’ den. She carried her basket as it swung wildly, hoping it wouldn’t fly out of her hands. The smell of cooked steak wafted through its gaps, and she breathed a happy sigh as she took in a deep breath, taking a break from the running. The temptation to nibble a small chunk of meat was great, but she had to force it down. Grannie was the only wolf keeping Ruby from being an easy dinner for the rest of them.

She tried to think of her life as a storybook, like one that she would read when stopping in town at the bookstore: It was like she lived a fairytale with talking animals, however tragic, and her tale would end with a happily ever after, like always.

Except that’s not how real life worked, even if her life was far from what was classified as real.

Ruby rubbed her forehead with exhaustion, and continued to jog to the den. For as long as she could remember, she had been the delivery girl for the wolf pups. Every few days, she would be sent to town to scavenge up food for the wolves staying at the den. The wolf pups were very adorable, but Ruby was never allowed to get near them as the parents didn’t want her to ‘badly influence the pups with her revolting human ways’.

As she got to the final curve in the forest, Ruby hugged her basket to her chest and sat it by the den. The cave where the den was was gray, and she could hear little yips and howls coming from it. She ran off to her little grassy area where she had always slept, ever since she had been abandoned at birth.

An adult wolf came up, looking majestic with her gray fur. It was Grannie! The old wolf had always been able to persuade the other members of the large pack that Ruby shouldn’t be eaten, and instead should be used. Indeed, Ruby was useful. The pack had grown large in the nine years of Ruby’s life, and they had new offspring about every year. She tried to be grateful that she was at least fed a small portion of the food she gathered, but it was tough. 

Grannie, however, was the only wolf that Ruby was fond of. Her white fur was so unlike the blend of the other wolves, it was comforting to know that she wasn’t the only odd one out. Grannie was respected though, and was respectful of other wolves. She was also considerate and caring, and had a sense of kindness for young children. She still believed that humanity could be better, but she also thought that if Ruby grew up nicely, she may change humanity somehow. Ruby was very fond of Grannie for these reasons, and it made her happy to know that there was someone out there who cared for her.

“Grannie, I’m back!” Ruby whispered into the den, trying to block out the snarls of older wolves. 

“Welcome back, dear, welcome back. How’s our little hero?” Grannie replied, walking up on her padded feet to Ruby and her basket. Ruby shuddered as the wolves growled as the word ‘hero’.

“I’m good,” Ruby replied swiftly. She had picked up on a little bit of manners from her visits to the children’s bookstore, but she didn’t use them very often when in the wolves’ company, as they didn’t care.

“You can help yourself to a bit of meat with the older wolves after the pups eat,” Grannie said. Ruby sighed, sad at that rule. Even though she was thankful for a portion of food, she couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to have a full meal. Wolves always ate a lot, and by the end of their grabbing, there was barely enough for her. Wolves rarely thought about stuff outside of their pack, but Grannie was one of the few who actually had an ounce of sympathy for her.

Dinner passed quickly. Ruby ate some steak, and went to bed exhausted from her trek in town. She awoke that morning about an hour before sunrise by Grannie.

“Ruby, dear, some of the pack members, including me, are taking the pups hunting for a few days. You’re to stay here,” Grannie said, a pup batting Ruby awake playfully.

Ruby nodded and waved them off. The sunrise was just now happening, and Ruby sat on a large rock, watching the sun send multicolored waves dancing across the sky.

The morning flew by, her seemingly doing nothing. That was when Fang and Tooth, lower wolves, came prowling by, just a couple of wolves that had stayed behind.

“Grannie, you’re back already?” Ruby asked. It was unusual for any wolves other than the elderly one to approach her. The two wolves snickered, then Fang jumped out, teeth bared.

A loud screech erupted out of Ruby, and she jumped off the rock, her small nine year old self jumping over the biting wolves. She took off of a sprint to the woods, taking the shortcuts she had known since she was a toddler. The wolves, just as fast, but less knowledgeable of this direction of forest, bumped into quite a few trees along the way. Ruby agilely hopped over a large log in the way, but Tooth crashed into it, and Fang crashed into Tooth. She ran and ran, trying to remember all of the shortcuts she had learned trying to get back to the den before dusk in all her years.

Ruby passed the lake, its waters shining. She hadn’t really paid much attention to it earlier, but now she saw an advantage. She grabbed a low hanging oak tree branch and swung herself across it- She had done this for fun and cardio as a little kid. This launched herself a few feet, around a corner, but that made a big difference.

The wolves tried chasing her, but not being able to hold onto a branch nor round the corner Ruby had passed, due to the large oak tree, they would have had to turn around and go across the other side of the lake. They gave up defeat, and headed back to the den.

Ruby took a deep breath. Where else could she go? She took a deep breath, panting, and walked to the town. By the time she got there, it was almost dark. All but a few restaurants were closed, and she didn’t have any money. The only shop with lights on was the bookstore.

Ruby jogged over there, opening the door. Inside was the owner, who had worked at the desk as long as the nine year old girl could remember. The middle-aged woman was closed up. Ruby took a deep breath and opened the door, saying, “Hello.”

The woman turned her head and raised her eyebrows, a little sign of recognition after seeing this little girl in her shop from time to time. “Why, hello. It’s rather late out. Where are your parents?”

Ruby took a deep breath and said, “I… don’t have any.”

“No parents? How preposterous,” the woman said, shaking her head, though she was just noticing that she had never seen the child with any parental figure of a sort.

With that, Ruby launched into her story. By the time it was over, the woman, whose name was Ms. Sensjen was listening very closely with sympathy.

“My, my, darling, only a bookworm would believe your tale. You’re a lucky one. How about you settle in, and I’ll take you to get some coffee at the Starbucks?” Ms. Sensjen asked, with a little crease between her eyebrows.

“Oh, really? I’ve never had coffee before,” Ruby said, beaming.

“Well, it’ll be my pleasure. By the way, where are you manners, child?” the kind woman replied.

“Oh, I have few. The wolves weren’t very polite, and I only picked up a bit from browsing your shop,” Ruby said sadly.

With that depressing comment, they walked across the street to the coffee shop. Ruby had her first coffee, which quickly became her favorite drink. Not too long after, Ms. Sensjen adopted the little girl, raising her like a mother would. Ruby Sensjen lived on to be a fine storyteller, and maintained the bookstore after her adopted mother passed away. Ruby would always say, “Look for the branch and take a leap. The possibilities are endless.”

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