This story is by Diana Lawrence and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Two sisters were making cookies one fine spring day. Ruby Anne who marked her tenth birthday the week before was making the bunny-shaped cutouts, very carefully. She knew she was being trusted and she meant to do a good job. Giselle was twenty years old and Ruby Anne’s guardian after a car accident that their parents did not survive two years ago. Giselle was responsible for the baking of the cookies.
“Giselle, when do I get to do things on my own?” Ruby Anne spoke with a determination beyond her years.
“Why do you ask that?” She smiled at her little sister’s precision on cutting the dough into shapes.
Shifting uncomfortably as she stood on the stool, only stopping for a split second while gathering her thoughts, “Well, I am ten years old now and I want to walk to Grandma’s house on my own sometimes. I mean, I love you and like it when you and I walk together. But sometimes I want to talk with Grandma alone. Secrets, you know?” Ruby Anne looked up at Giselle with a beatific smile. Her bright green eyes shown, and her mouth opened in a broad smile.
Giselle decided to quiz Ruby Anne.
“Well, why do you think we walk together to Grandma’s?”
“To protect me, silly. You are my big sister and my mom now. Kids need to grow up too. But, like you said the other day, bit by bit, not too fast. I don’t want to do it by sneaking.”
“Oh, I see. Thank you for not wanting to sneak around and do something I don’t know about. I do love you Ruby Anne!” Giselle hugged her little sister and after they both turned back to their respective jobs.
After several minutes of quiet between them, Giselle spoke.
“I can see you have thought about this. Do you remember the way to Grandma’s by yourself?”
“I do, it’s only two blocks away. I walk down to Michelle’s house, the white house on the corner and turn left.” Ruby Anne was motioning with her arms directionally as well.
“Walk down to the next corner and turn right but look both ways before crossing the street. Walk down the street with the big, bad dog in the red house’s front yard. I don’t stop to pet that dog, not ever.” She added a waggle with her flour covered index finger at Giselle.
“Then, I walk past the tavern and Grandma’s house is three houses down at 1635 Granger St. Her house is pea green with white shutters.” Proud of herself she stood up straight, put her hands on her hips and nodded her head.
“Very good, you have an excellent memory. There is one thing you have to do if you walk alone.”
“What’s that?” Ruby Anne screwed up her face as she looked up at Giselle, truly concerned she had gotten something wrong.
“You must walk on the other side of the street, not past the tavern.”
“But we don’t do that when we walk together.”
“Well, that’s because we are together. Sometimes, people who are not very nice hang out there. Little girls should not walk past that place alone, to be safe.”
Giselle slowed her pace slightly on transferring the cookies to the pan while Ruby Anne took this in as she had slowed down.
“But then I won’t be able to pet Rocky. Rocky is with his owner at the tavern. Almost every time we go past.”
Giselle thought Rocky’s owner was often at the tavern, but she said nothing. He was not a scary man and had never threatened them; the opposite actually, he hardly ever said anything more to them than “Fine day.” No matter what type of day it was.
“Ruby Anne, this is very important. When you walk to her house alone, you must promise to cross to the other side of the street and don’t walk past the tavern. Ok?”
“Ok.” Ruby Anne had a vague disappointment in her voice.
“To be safe, that’s all.”
“I won’t walk past the tavern. Which means I have to cross the street twice, you know.”
Giselle laughed to herself at Ruby Anne’s directness and being quite correct in crossing the street twice. Which was also dangerous.
“I know. Watch for cars, you know that. And you are right that I need to let you grow up – slowly, mind you. So, yes, you can walk to Grandma’s house sometimes on your own.”
Ruby Anne clapped her hands sending flour cascading through their operations. Both of then laughed heartily.
Ruby Anne had several walks to Grandma’s alone in a month’s time. Giselle had relaxed about it as it always went uneventfully. She had stopped asking about what the happenings were on the way after the last couple of times. Ruby Anne was great at details and relayed every squirrel and stray cat on the route. Giselle tended to tune that out now.
This eventful day was sunny and bright. Skipping along, Ruby Anne had her red purse held to her side.
“Squirrels everywhere, zero stray cats. That big, bad, dog is out in the front yard at the red house.”
She hesitated as the dog barked at her even though she was a house away and across the street. Looking around she saw Rocky and his owner standing outside.
“Hey kid, don’t walk past that dog. You don’t know if he’ll break his chains.” Rocky’s owner shouted to her.
She thought another ten seconds and decided to go back to the corner, crossed the street and made a beeline to Rocky.
Rocky’s owner asked Ruby Anne with a soft, unassuming voice if she was going to her grandma’s house today, “She lives three houses down?”, as he handed her a cola.
She wondered why he had what looked like a bloody scratch on his right hand.
“Yes, but how do you know that? Why does your hand have a scratch on it?”
“Good guess, that’s all. Oh, I don’t know, must have run into something.” As he turned his hand over and looked at it with a sudden frown.
The two of them stood for a few minutes talking about the fine weather today and Rocky. Ruby Anne petted Rocky and kissed him on the top of his head. After her cola was finished, she ended the conversation.
“Well, I have to be going now. My grandma is waiting for me, and I don’t want her to be worried. Thank you for the soda!” Ruby Anne skipped away, waving her arms in big circles as she went. Rocky’s owner watched her start to skip down the street.
As she skipped along, she was alone in her own world, she never looked back at Rocky or his owner to see if they were still there. Rocky’s owner wasn’t there and had left Rocky tied to a tree.
Ruby Anne spent time here and there sniffing flowers and lightly touching them to see how soft. It took her longer to get to Grandma’s than usual.
“Hey grandma!” She called loudly with anticipation as she wanted to share that Rocky’s owner bought her a soda and “wasn’t that so nice.”
Ruby Anne didn’t hear anything in response. She stopped. There was no noise except for the television set blaring too loudly.
She checked the basement, but grandma wasn’t there. She checked the backyard, no grandma. Only the laundry hanging on the clothesline. Ruby Anne was worried and getting more afraid with each passing minute. There was one last place to check.
“Grandma? Why are you in bed in the middle of the day?” as she walked over to the bed her grandmother was laying on, she felt uneasy.
Grandma was laying on the bed, bound with a bedsheet, her eyes wide open and full of fear.
Ruby Anne turned to run for help and ran directly into Rocky’s owner, bouncing off of him and landing hard on her butt. He laughed heartily and as he was bending down to pick her up, she screamed a blood curdling sound as she saw the big, bad dog from the red house come bounding into the room. The dog knocked the man down as it went for his jugular vein.
Although it was an ugly scene, Ruby Anne diligently freed her terrified grandmother.
The police arrived shortly thereafter, along with Giselle, who swept Ruby Anne up in her arms.
The detective told Giselle and Grandma that Rocky’s owner was a criminal. His name was Jack Wolfe, and he was a wanted man in three states.
Ruby Anne heard it all and wondered.
“Giselle? Do you think the big, bad dog at the red house was really warning me all along of Rocky’s owner by barking and making a fuss?”
“Maybe. I’m glad you are safe. Next time we should both be more careful of who we choose as acquaintances.”