Prologue

"Wolf! Wolf!"

The villagers strain to hear the cries, to make out the words; lock their wives and children inside; grab their swords and axes and torches; and wait outside my house.

They wait while I unlock the chest with the key that hangs around my neck. They wait while I take out a bundle of cloth. They wait while I unwrap the moth-eaten cover. They wait while I put on the cloak and tie it tightly. They wait while I pull up the hood.

I step outside into the winter dusk. "Let's go." I say. The faded white clouds of my breath swirl around me.

They follow me deep into the forest, my crimson cloak the only splash of color in the snow-covered landscape.

Finding the wolf is easy. The next part isn't so much. The men advance on the wolf, cornering it on the slippery mountain slope. It knows very well if it steps any further back it will plunge to its death.

I motion for them to stop, but they know the drill. I push myself to the front of the group, and put out my hand to the wolf. It growls and shows its teeth, but makes no attempt to move in either direction.

I speak to it in low, guttural sounds, a human word thrown in here and there when I don't know how to translate it.

The wolf and I strike a balance for a few moments – neither hostile, neither friendly.

Then it snaps and lunges. Its teeth close on open air, for the men have dragged me back from its jaws.

"It's not him. It's not my Wolf." I turn away and pull the hood down over my eyes.

"Kill it." I say coldly. Blood splatters the snow behind me, but I don't see it.

The night sky is blank. No stars to guide me tonight. It was just on the night Wolf left my side.

I glance at the chest. I always feel safer when I wear the cloak. It smells of him; like fur and pine needles, and faintly of something human, though it isn't me. Instead it smells manly, but gentle.

Hugging it to me, rejoicing in its soft fabric, I sit on the edge of my bed and look up at the moon. It's half-full, or looks it. But I know better than anyone that looks can be deceiving.

Wolf. Such a strange word. When I hear it, my heart threatens to burst from the mix of emotions it contains: hope, fear, sadness, enchantment, wonder, passion...

Wolf. My dear Wolf. I ruined everything for him. He had stayed hidden for so long, but he had heard my song, felt my pain; helped me when I was in danger.

Because the story isn't true. The story of Little Red Riding Hood, the Poor Old Granny, and the Big Bad Wolf, is a lie. A lie made up by those German brothers, who thought to teach children a lesson about strangers.

But Wolf wasn't a stranger at all. In a way I can't explain, I felt drawn to him, as though I knew him even when we first met...

And I'm the only one who can set the record straight.