365 Little Red Riding Hood

    "Big bad wolf knocked on the door and said, 'Little Red Riding Hood, it's me, grandma. Open the door, I brought cakes for you'." Inside the child's bedroom, the bedside lamp glowed warmly. Song Fang sat on the edge of the bed as she read the fairy tale to her daughter. She mimicked the wolf's wicked tone and said, "Little Red Riding Hood, please open the door. Grandma has journeyed for so long and I'm tired. And the cake is melting, please open the door."

    Her six-year-old daughter, Hui Li listened attentively. Her small face scrunched up with nervousness as her eyes blinked. Actually this was not the first time little Hui Li heard the story of Little Red Riding Hood but it was her favourite story.

    "After Little Red Riding Hood opened the door, the wolf swallowed her whole into its stomach." Song Fang gasped with melodrama. Hui Li's eyes colored with shock. But Song Fang quickly added, "But right at that moment, a hunter passed by. He screamed, 'Wolf, I've finally found you!'" The story ended in the usual way. The hunter slaughtered the wolf and rescued Little Red Riding Hood. He then warned the girl to take good care of herself and be careful around strangers. When the story ended, Little Hui Li appeared pensive and her eyes blinked.

    "Hui Li, how come you keep blinking tonight?" Song Fang noticed this and asked with concern, "Do you feel something uncomfortable in your eyes?"

    "No..." Hui Li rubbed her eyes, "There's nothing wrong." Song Fang looked closer into her daughter's eyes and sighed surreptitiously when she saw no redness or puffiness. She put it down to her daughter's tiredness. After all, it had been continuous days of new year celebration. It was getting late so she said, "Tonight, we'll just read one story. Time to go to bed."

    "Okay..." Hui Li answered. But as her mother stood up, she said, "Mummy, I'm scared."

    "Okay. Mummy will stay here with you until you fall asleep, okay?" Song Fang sat there, watching her daughter fall asleep, which was soon. As a mother, she could not help but smile. Her daughter had a round face, long lashes, cute nose and curved lips. She was her little angel. Hui Li was a clever little girl, she had never worried her parents before. Song Fang picked up her phone and quietly snapped a picture of her sleeping daughter. She uploaded it with the caption. "She wants me to read her the Little Red Riding Hood but she got too scared to sleep alone. Baby, should there be a big bad wolf, mummy will do everything to protect you!"

    After the status was posted, Song Fang got many comments and likes. Most of them came from family and friends. Everyone commented on how cute Hui Li was and that made Song Fang happy and proud.

    "Good night, little angel." Song Fang then stood up to leave the room. After a few steps, she stopped and turned to the room corner. There was nothing there and she had no idea why she had the urge to look there earlier. After a few stares at the corner, Song Fang continued her way out of the room. Actually, Song Fang was only 33 this year. If she was younger, she'd never be home on Valentine's Time, especially this year where two Valentine's were adjacent to each other. This kind of event happened perhaps once in a lifetime. Should she be 8 years younger, Song Fang would be out on a shopping spree with her boyfriend. But in her case, the boyfriend had become her husband, and a child had fitted into the picture. That changed everything. The family's focus was no longer on the adults but on the child.

    She and her husband had normal jobs. After taking away the fees like insurance and house loan, they had little allowance left each month. They spent most of their money on Hui Li, for her kindergarten classes, piano classes, ballet lessons and so on. There was also the milk powder, new clothes and toys. The focus of their world was Hui Li. Song Fang could not recall the last time she went out on a date with her husband.

    With some help from their parents, life was passable. Hui Li's grandparents hinted at the possibility of a second child but they simply did not have the economical standard to support that.

    "Has our baby fallen asleep?" Her husband, Zhong Zhihao asked. Seeing Song Fang nod, Zhong Zhihao bounced up from the couch and handed his wife a present he hid behind him earlier. "Honey, thank you for everything. Happy Valentine's."

    Song Fang was surprised and honestly quite happy but she groused, "Where did you get the money to buy this?" She handled the family account and she was a very good accountant. She opened the present box and saw a silver necklace. From the brand, she knew the necklace cost around several thousand RMB.

    "I saved this on the side but this is the most I could afford." Zhong Zhihao said with a smile because despite the complaint, he saw the smile that threatened to appear on his wife's lips. "You have no idea how long I've saved to surprise you with this."

    "I'd rather you spend it on food, at least Hui Li can also benefit from that." Song Fang complained but she still put on the necklace. She had not splurged on things like this for a long time already. Try as she might, she could not stop the grin from surfacing on her face.

    "Ha ha, sometimes, a husband gotta pamper his wife." Zhong Zhihou chuckled. Before Hui Li arrived, both he and his wife were shopaholics. He used to change his phone whenever a new model came out but he had used his current one for years already. Having a child really did change everything.

    Was it easy to have a child? Was it tiring? Yes, of course. Sometimes, even though they would not admit it out loud, the couple would wander to themselves, how did they end up on this path in life. But as soon as they saw Little Hui Li's innocent smile, or heard her call them 'mummy' and 'daddy', or witnessed her confidence when she played piano and performed ballet on stage, everything would be worth it...

    Song Fang and Zhong Zhihou sighed. They would do everything in their power to maintain this family, to give Little Hui Li the best she deserved.

    "Now that the girl is asleep..." Zhong Zhihou suggested, "Honey, we haven't done that in a long time already."

    "There's the catch." Song Fang chided. "I was wondering why you'd suddenly buy me a present." Ever since they married, everyday life has worn out the romance in their lives. But on this special holiday, Zhong Zhihou planned to reignite some of their old passion. Song Fang was willing to play along. But just as things were getting to go, a sound came from Hui Li's bedroom. Initially, they thought they heard it wrongly but the sound slowly clarified.

    "Honey?" Song Fang frowned in worry as she rushed to the bedroom. Zhong Zhihou followed but something stopped him. "Wait!" He ran into the kitchen to grab a knife before catching up to his wife. It was a very strange voice, like one made from a mechanical toy but they swore they did not purchase such a toy for Hui Li...

    The couple stopped before the door before pushing it open and switched on the light. "Hui Li!"

    Shock and terror overwhelmed them. The sound originated from Hui Li. The girl was seated upright in bed. Her face was twitching and her eyes blinked rapidly. Her mouths moved like she was chanting. Her voice sounded like whispers of an old forest or the roar from the abyss.
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