Eat You Up

Chapter 1 - Red

Every village, every town, every family, and every group has a black sheep. Although, sometimes, that sheep is neither black nor a sheep. In fact, sometimes, such as in the case of the village of New Harborton, the sheep turns out to be a fey-like young man clad in a much beloved red cloak. But, just because a sheep isn't really a sheep, doesn't mean that he shouldn't be on the look out for wolves all the same.


The village of New Harborton was, for the most part, a quiet and tranquil place to live. It was neither an exceedingly wealthy place, nor was it anywhere near poor. It was neither dramatically hot, nor unbearably chill. It was nestled in the shade of an ancient forest, but it was also just as near to the sea. And, despite the name, it was neither new, nor was it particularly old. All and all, the village of New Harborton was a very middle of the ground sort of place. Which was exactly why the village's resident black sheep stood out so very much, because he was anything but mild and ordinary.

Everyone called the boy Red, although he surely had been born with a different name. However, with his mane of shockingly red hair, combined with the fact that he was rarely seen without his favorite red cloak, made the reasoning behind his moniker more than obvious. Red was well known throughout the village, and many thought him to be the loveliest creature to ever grace their otherwise modest town, although not many would say such a thing to his face. He was graceful and willowy, and most would have likened him to a swan or a gazelle had such exotic things ever been seen in New Harborton. His mass of fiery hair fell in waves down past his waist, every bit as striking as the red of his brilliantly hued cloak. And it wasn't just his hair and his cloak that stood out, for even with the hood of his cloak pulled up, it was impossible to miss his vibrant green eyes, fringed as they were by a thick ring of velvety lashes. More often than not, those verdant eyes were filled with mischief, desire, or both. All of this combined to make Red the most noticeable person in the whole of New Harborton.

Noticeable or not, by looks alone Red would not have earned the title of black sheep. He stood out, to be sure, but that was not the reason why so many of the villagers looked at the beauty with a weary eye. In order to understand why Red was considered to be so very out of the ordinary, one must first understand the ways of the villagers of New Harborton. They were not necessarily a cold people, as a rule, but they were not known for being overly warm either. Young lovers often held hands as they strolled the lanes, man and wife might kiss under a tree in the park on a spring day, and children routinely clung to their mothers' waists, but for the most part that was the extent of the shows of their affections in public. Such was not the case for Red. Perhaps it was because he had been orphaned as a young child and had been left with naught but an often times neglectful grandmother, or perhaps it was for entirely different reasons all together, but regardless of his motivations Red craved attention and affection with near addictive force. He would flirt with anyone who would pay him any mind, he would fawn over his current crushes, and he would go home with whoever would have him. As a result, there was nary an adult man or woman in the village of New Harborton who hadn't spent a night or two with Red. Although few would admit to knowing him in the light of day.

If the way that he was treated, coveted by night and shunned by day, bothered Red then he did a fine job of hiding his pain. He had a bright and ready smile, even for those who had been cruel to him in the past, and even those who had thrown him aside like so much trash were always welcomed at his table when he dined at the local inn. He was a kind and gentle soul, even if he was a bit loose with his affections, and although it surely hurt that the majority of the village tried their best to ignore him when they had no need of him, Red still tried to keep a twinkle in his eye and a song in his heart.

As of late, however, Red had found it increasingly hard to keep his ever present smile on his full, ruby red lips. In fact, he was more often than not heard sighing instead of laughing. Red, as it turned out, had a problem that he was not at all used to dealing with. He was in love. In love with the one man in the village who had never, not even once, shown the slightest inclination towards allowing Red's advances or returning his affections. He was, in short, in love with the one man who would not even pretend to be in love with him, not even for the night. And it was breaking Red's heart.

"Thinking about the huntsman again?"

Red had been lost in thought, and he looked up with mild surprise to see his one and only true friend staring down at him with worry etched clear across his face. Anthony owned the village's most popular inn and tavern, which just so happened to be Red's favorite place to spend his days, and so the tavern keeper had been witness to Red's rapidly darkening moods as of late.

Just the mention of the huntsman had brought Red's mood down further. Saying his name brought to Red's mind an image of broad shoulders, tanned skin, short, dark curls, and sharp, intelligent brown eyes the color of the most decadent chocolates. In his mind's eye Red could see the huntsman smiling broadly, his body clad in tight leather breeches and his favorite knee high calfskin boots, his gun slung casually over one great shoulder. The image made Red's body glad. But his heart despaired.

"He doesn't want me, and he never will," Red said with certainty. "He is strong, and brave, and truly noble of soul. He would never want someone like me. Not when he knows that everyone else in this village has had me first."

"Don't talk like that," Anthony chided as he took a seat beside his beautiful friend. "I know for a fact that he likes you. He asks about you every time that he comes in, always asking me if you're well and what you're up to, and he never bothers to inquire about anyone else but you."

"But I've tried to let him know how I feel," Red wailed. "I try and I try, and still he doesn't respond. I think that I would be happier if he would at least tell me to my face that I'm a slut and that he hates me. At least then I would know how he felt."

"You're not a slut," Anthony scolded, "you're just exceedingly friendly."

"I've made my bed and now I'm not even going to be able to lie in it!" Red went on, all but ignoring Anthony. "I just don't know what to do anymore. I want him so badly that my chest aches at the mere thought of him, but he's taken to ignoring me completely as of late, and I don't know if I can stand it much longer."

Anthony heaved a great sigh, already regretting what he was about to say, but he forced the words out all the same. He simply could not stand to see his friend suffering so. "You know that I hate the bitch, but I think that it's time for you to go and see your grandmother."

"My grandmother?"

"I've asked around, and it seems that she used to be rather close with him once upon a time. They say that he still visits with her on a regular basis, as they are the only two fools in our village who have chosen to live so far outside of town." Anthony had to smile at the look of outraged jealousy on Red's face, and he patted his friend soothingly on the shoulder before he could get too carried away with the wild images that were surely surging through his mind. "I think your dear huntsman has better taste than that, Red. They were never lovers, so far as I know. But I think that, if anyone would have some insights into that man's behavior and how to get closer to him, it would have to be your wretch of a grandmother."

Red grew contemplative for a moment, weighing in his mind the chance at finding a way into his beloved huntsman's heart against a much dreaded visit to his grandmother. In the end love won out, and a hint of Red's old smile returned as he beamed back at Anthony, pleased at last to have some hope once again. "I'll do it!"

"Just be careful," Anthony reminded him. "You know that there's been a string of attacks against people straying too far off of the path. We've got a serial rapist and murderer on the loose, and a pretty young thing like you would surely be more than a man like that could resist."

"I can take care of myself."

"Just promise me that you'll stick to the path and that you'll return home before dark."

Red pretended to be offended, but in truth he was overjoyed at having someone who cared enough to caution him. Anthony was probably the only person who ever worried over him, and Red knew that he had a rare gift in the other man's friendship. That alone made him ready to agree to anything that he asked. "I promise."


                   ~~~~~~~~ Back to Red Riding Hood ~~~~~~~~ Chapter 2



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