Jessie pulled her hood up. The wind bit at her cheeks as she started to walk down the dirt road that led to her grandmother's house. Her grandmother was sick, or at least that was what her parents said. Jessie hadn't seen her in a few years. Now, her mother said that Granny Hilda was doing well enough to eat some of Jessie's cooking. Jessie had been offended at first, but slowly it dawned upon her that she had been given permission to bake for Granny. When Jessie had presented the assortment of cookies and thermos of cherry lime-aid to her mother, she had been told to deliver them herself. Now here she was practically skipping down the road to see her grandmother.
It was not long before she entered the woods. She was on Granny's lands now. The warmth of apprehension spread through her body. Giddy with anticipation, Jessie took off running down the road. Her camouflage backpack pounding against her scarlet windbreaker. It was not long before she ran out of breath, however and Jessie slowed to a walk. A wolf howled in the distance. Jessie howled back. The autumn leaves crunched beneath her feet. She hadn't been here for three years. She had been so happy. She would play in the trees. Once she saw a wolf. She had run to get mama and papa. They hadn't shown the same enthusiasm that she had. That was the last time she had been allowed to play here by herself. Now here she was, ten years old. No longer the second grader that couldn't fend for herself.
" Hello, little girl." A voice broke into Jessie's memories. She looked up startled. A large man stood on the path before her. Jessie shivered. He had a hungry look in his eyes.
" Hello, sir." Jessie responded, not quite sure of what to do.
" Fine day to be out."
" Yes it is."
" Where might you be headed?"
Jessie shivered. She did not like this man at all. Then again he would surely know if she lied to him. He regarded her with his dark eyes.
" I am going to my grandmother's house."
" Is that far?"
" Just down the road, sir. If you don't mind I'll continue on my way." Jessie muttered.
" Oh! Of course! I am sorry if I held you for very long my dear."
Jessie nodded and started down the road again.
" I would pick some flowers for Granny if she were my grandmother." The man called after her. Jessie glanced over her shoulder. He was gone. She started to walk again, his words ringing in her ears. Without noticing it, Jessie began to pick flowers. Farther and farther into the woods, she went along picking more and more beautiful flowers. An owl sent its cry echoing through the dark. Only then did Jessie notice how late it was. Granny. She had forgotten Granny Hilda. Her hands froze inches from another flower. She swiftly stood and ran for the path. Flowers falling from between her fingers as she did so. She didn't stop when she reached the road. She didn't stop when she reached a fallen log. She stopped when she reached her grandmother's house. The gate was open. Jessie hurried to the door and knocked loudly.
" It's me Jessie. May I come in, Granny?"
" Of course, my dear!"
Jessie opened the door and walked in. It was dark and something smelled. There was the bed, just where she remembered it. Jessie blindly felt for the light switch. She flipped it up with a click. A moan came from the bed. Jessie put her backpack down by the door and walked over to the bed.
" Hello, Granny Hilda." Jessie said softly.
" How are you my sweet?" The bed crooned.
" Just fine, Granny." Jessie paused, "Are you doing all right? You sound funny."
" Come a little closer dear, I didn't quite catch that."
Jessie stepped closer to the bed. A large arm shot out and grabbed her wrist. Jessie screamed as loud as she could. The blankets were tossed back and the stranger from that mourning rolled off the bed. Jessie pulled away. She pulled to hard and fell to the floor. That was when she saw under the bed. There was a limp form, clad in pastels, beneath the bed. Blood pooled around it's head, where a jagged slash had split the skin. Jessie screamed again. The man pulled a knife from his belt and grinned. As if she was a pillow, he pulled Jessie up and pressed his knife against her cheek. Jessie whimpered. Suddenly a bang filled her ears. The man fell to the floor. He was dead. Jessie was bawling when her uncle Brian walked through the door. He set down the gun on the counter and picked Jessie up. She continued to weep as he set her in a chair and washed the small cut off of her face. Jessie fell asleep on the couch as her uncle cleaned the house and fished his mother out from under the bed.
The next day Brian drove his niece up to his brother's house. he had been hunting for something to make a good stew with for Hilda. He was on his way back when he heard Jessie scream. Margret held her baby close as her husband and brother in law spoke about the man. Jessie was still in her mother's arms. Afterward she did her chores and went to school as usual, but she was different. Her spark was gone. Not only had that man stolen her grandmother's life, he had also taken Jessie's childhood.