The aching wouldn’t stop, she opened her eyes with a heavy yawn. Rose didn’t remember how she got to the woods, but that’s where she woke that morning. The sun was a force of orange and yellow breaking beyond the Evergreens. She lifted her curly-head off the dewy grass.
Rose’s lips trembled as she grasped for her wicker basket and red cloak, “how? This doesn’t make sense.”
Rose stumbled to her feet, still groggy from a deep sleep she couldn’t shake as she flung the crimson cloak around her shoulders. The familiar scent of home was calming to her restless mind, there were so many questions. Such as how could she return home if she didn’t know where to begin? Her muscles were tense as she walked further into the woods where the canopy was thicker. She gripped her basket as if it were a weapon.
Snap. The breaking of a limb startled her. She took off like a horse out of a stable, heart pounding to fuel her legs with adrenaline as she crashed through the underbrush. She didn’t dare steal a glance, but the crunching of leaves and cracking of twigs alerted her to the hunt she had fallen into. Breathing heavy, she didn’t stop running until she had cleared the woods. She nearly fell over as she came to a halt.
“Whoa,” she was amazed. A meadow sprawled out before her with a sea of poppies, sunflowers, Queen of the Prairies, and butterfly weeds. It was vibrant against the gentle beat of the sun, Rose almost had forgotten why she had been running. She looked behind her wearily as she waded into the thick meadow. She could hear the echo of footsteps growing louder and louder. She grunted as the grass and fauna became thicker. The hem of her cloak wrapped around her ankles as she ran. She called out, falling into her floral surroundings.
“Please no,” she whispered. Without needing to look up she already knew that what had been chasing her was already near enough to release its hot breath on the back of her neck. Her lips trembled as she turned slowly to face the beast.
Rose stared into the deep, black eyes of the grey wolf. Something terrifying yet familiar about them raised the hairs on the back of her neck. She could almost remember the night before, she didn’t wonder into the woods. She was chased, hunted. Rose frantically felt around the ground for her basket, instead her fingers curled around a jagged stone.
As the wolf leaned its head closer she raised the rock. Though as she brought it down something caught her eye. She froze midair, her eyes widened at the sight of the violet marks on her wrist, bruises outlining a cusped hand. The ghastly sight brought back the memory of her fiancé, who in a drunken rage over her wanting to leave, grabbed her and dragged her to the yard to be whipped. The memory came flooding in, it was becoming clearer.
Rose dropped the rock, “you attacked Bryant and chased me away. You wouldn’t let me stop running until it was safe, right? You saved me, didn’t you?”
The wolf sat on its hind legs, watching her patiently. Rose scanned the earth around her till she found her basket again. Inside she found her mother’s broach, what little wage she had saved from working at the inn, and papers to giver her a new name for a fresh start in a village as far away from Bryant as possible.
Rose put down the basket and took the wolf’s face in her hands, she kissed its forehead gingerly. “Thank you.”