That’s how it starts, they say, that’s how you end up in fairy tales, or places you don’t belong to. Hunt drags his tired body to his car to go home after a double shift, only exhaustion leads him to Wolf’s store, open all day and all night, the home of the weary, where all is cheap and available anytime.
Red Riding Hood ended up being married to Robin Hood, which only came natural to all creatures in the land of Fairy Tales – they share a last name after all – but sounds confusing to people on the outside, who only gossip about them mostly when they’re kids, or raise kids, or do research, or write about them.
There was a girl at first, not a prince, not a princess, not even an aspiring royal, there was that little girl, called Red, for she was always dressed in red and her friends made fun of her, except for a boy, a boy named Robin, who liked red so much that never wore other colors. Red goes to Granny’s every day to deliver food. Granny’s is a shelter for children and Red goes there, delivers food and makes phone calls, which don’t always end up well, but Red keeps making them, insisting those kids should be reunited with their parents. Robin follows Red, as he’s already in love and he wants to bring food too, but he’s too poor to find food, so he doesn’t eat and brings his own lunch at Granny’s. Red has watched him get thinner, but she takes the food and thanks him, for she wouldn’t like any food go wasted, she thanks him and he smiles, his bright teeth shine through his lips, and Red thinks she also likes white, the color of purity, she thinks she’d like a white world, but she prefers red, the color of fire, for the world isn’t white yet, and red is necessary, as the alternative is too black for her taste.
Robin is so hungry he can’t afford to give his meal away, but he’s also desperate to see Red. He eats it and steals some food from a store to take to Red. It’s a series of unfortunate events that lead Robin to Mr. Wolf’ attention. His red clothes stand out, they always do and Robin, poor Robin, usually stands out in crowds. He grabs some food and panics when he hears a gunshot. In fairy tales only noble huntsmen carry guns, yet in this case, a person with a pistol has entered the store and is about to shoot again, as everyone hides under the tables, yet no one is hurt, for the pistol is already empty, this time they’re all lucky, they’re all part of a fairy tale destined to end well, except for poor Robin who seems unlucky now, who is so scared that he rises up and starts running.
Hunt is just about to pay for his pack of cigarettes, a rush of adrenaline goes through his veins as soon as the gunshot is heard, if only he hadn’t stopped by, he thinks, but it all ends soon, he doesn’t know yet, but he’s in a fairy tale, where nobody gets hurt, not even side characters. Robin runs, but Wolf, the manager, is behind him, and Hunt hunts both of them, he wants to pay, until Robin enters the shelter, exchanges a glance with Red and hides in the bathroom. Red approaches Wolf, asking him what’s wrong and Wolf says he’s looking for a thief. Red is about to punch him. She pays instead for Robin’s food, for that kind of violence is not permitted in fairy tales, not if you’re not noble enough.
Hunt takes usually the credit; even in fairy tales, historians tell the story from the side of the powerful. Reds are not the bad people in fairy tales, but they’re not the heroes either, unless the storyteller is on their side. Robin is saved, Red thinks, but promises herself that when she grows up, she’ll see that nobody gets hungry, she’d be an outlaw if she had to, and Robin agrees and says he’d join the gang if he had to, that they’ll get married and he’ll have her last name and they’ll live as outlaws, not criminals, dolphins not wolves (but that’s hard to distinguish for most people), stealing from the rich, giving to the poor and they’ll live happily ever after, for love sustainability is always ensured in fairy tales, at any cost, like debt sustainability in the real world, offering hope to the aspiring lovers and rebels of the so-called real world, the world where Hunt lives, the one Red and Robin gossip about at nights, before they fall asleep.
Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist, from Athens, Greece. A Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions nominated writer, her work can be found in many journals, such as Litro, Jellyfish Review, Moon Park Review, Okay Donkey, Bending Genres, Open Pen and others. Follow her on Twitter @happmil_.