The slow walk home

There is a chill in the air this late autumn day, but she doesn’t mind. A freshness on the breeze roses her cheeks, her warm breath forming mini clouds that briefly engulf her features. She loves days like today where she can take her time and enjoy life; finding pleasure in all the sounds around her, the rustle of leaves underfoot, distance birdsong, the wind tickling empty branches overhead.

She’s always enjoyed this walk, the gentle pace, the repetition, one foot after another, left, right, left, right. The destination pulling closer with each step. She feels herself relax as she follows the twists and turns of the path, knowing she will unspool completely when she arrives.

A movement catches her eye and a dark blur bursts into view, dashes across the path before disappearing into the unkempt grass on the other side. Startled she jumps back, scared by the sudden appearance of the local cat on the hunt.

A pause, she laughs, adding to the noise of the forest, her sound bouncing from tree to tree, reassuring the thumping beat of her heart as her laughter tumbles away through the trees. She continues on her way.

Evening settles around her, the sun sneaking through the gathering clouds to brush the tree tops on the horizon, spindles of light cut through the trees leaving strange shadows across her path. She feels the first droplets of rain, puts her hood up and pulls her cape tighter around her body.

Up ahead she glimpes the first sign of the cottage, a trail of smoke rising in the distance, buffeted gently by the rising breeze. She imagines the roaring hearth inside and quickens her pace towards the warmth.

Through the gate at the end of the path now, the long mechanical groan of unoiled hinges seems louder in the gathering twilight and then, there in the cottage ahead, she sees him standing in the window, watching and waiting for her.

She walks briskly now, the quiet of the woods behind her, a new focus in front. He is waiting, she walks with purpose, striding up the path to his cottage, cape billowing.

The door opens and there he stands, silhouetted as the night descends.

“Hello little girl”, says the wolf.

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