Little Ethelred from Red Roding Hood: A quirky take on the Little Red Riding Hood story.
We hear how Little Ethelred's grandmother is destitute
Once upon a time there was a young lady called Little Ethelred from Red Roding Wood near Chelmsford. Her mother had heard of Ethelred the Unready and named her such as she believed it was a female name, given that it had Ethel in it. Mother had been quite unprepared for Ethelred’s birth and so the name seemed fitting.
Little Ethelred’s grandmother, who adored her deeply, had recently given her a pair of red shoes, which she wouldn’t stop wearing, she liked them so much. She felt it kind of went with the name of the town she came from too. Little Ethelred wasn’t so little either, being about 28 years old and of a firm and plump nature but no-one could remember how she got the nickname, ‘Little’.
She also wore a lot of red lipstick and drew the attention of many a male passer-by. This suited her well as it kept her in the manner to which she had been accustomed, her father having passed away and his inheritance being swallowed up by his debtors and the tax man. Before this the family was very well off and she had been used to having whatever she wanted.
Her grandmother, who adored her deeply, was, unbeknown to Little Ethelred and her mother, also very well off. This was because she managed her finances very well and didn’t pay any taxes, her fortune being invested in many a Swiss bank. Her grandmother, who adored her deeply, lived frugally, giving the appearance of not having much money and deceived everyone around her. Many people, including Little Ethelred and her mother, gave her gifts and food in the belief that she was a struggling old lady.
One day her mother said to her, “Ethelred. Can you take your grandmother’s shopping round to her for me please? I’m not feeling very well and she will be getting hungry and destitute if we don’t feed her. Don’t forget, go straight there and I don’t want you making eyes at strangers. I know what you’re like. Don’t drop the shopping either, I know how clumsy you can be. Your grandmother, who adores you deeply, is in dire need and isn’t as well off as we are, even though we have hardly anything ourselves.” Mother was always critical of Little Ethelred and Little Ethelred was fed up with it. She knew how hard up they were and didn’t need reminding of it.
“Allright mother,” she said. “Don’t go on about it. I know how hard up she is and I’m hardly likely to drop anything at my age.”
“That’s a matter of opinion,” said mother casting a weary critical eye over her daughter’s short skirt, the plunging neckline of the figure-hugging red top and the vivid red lipstick and red stiletto shoes.
Little Ethelred meets a stranger
Little Ethelred set off with the bags of shopping, tottering along on her high heels. She tried to ignore the glances she got from many men along the way, thinking about her old grandmother, who adored her deeply, and how hungry and destitute she was.
Just as she was passing WH Smiths a man came out of the shop. He was wearing a sheepskin coat and had brown hair and brown eyes. They bumped into each other and Little Ethelred dropped her shopping bag.
“Please,” said the man in a breathy warm voice. “Let me help you. It was my fault. I was in such a hurry.”
Little Ethelred heard his voice and all thought of her grandmother, who adored her deeply, went out of her head. All thought of her mother’s words of wisdom about not making eyes at strange men went out of her head too. “Oh, that’s so kind of you. Thank you.” She couldn’t help thinking he looked a bit like George Clooney and her legs felt warm and weak despite being firm of calf and thigh and having nothing on them until they reached the top.
They picked up the shopping bags together and he asked her name.
“Ethelred,” she said with a little giggle feeling embarrassed. She hoped she didn’t sound too flirty. “What’s yours?”
“Charles,” he said, softening the CH so it sounded like ’Sharle’.
‘Ooh,’ thought Ethelred. He sounds French. Her legs went a little weaker and she came over all little-girl-like.
“So what are you carrying in such a hurry?” asked Sharle.
“I’m going to see my grandmother,” said Little Ethelred. “She is destitute and hungry and she adores me deeply and my mother has sent me to take some shopping to her.”
“Where does your grandmother live? Perhaps I can give you a lift. My car is just over the road.’ He nodded in the direction of a large black BMW with tinted windows and a chauffeur in a hat sitting in the driver’s seat.
Little Ethelred was dead impressed. She might have been worldly-wise in many ways but she was a little naive when it came to men in black BMWs. “Oh, she’s not far from here. She lives on Acacia Drive in the big house at the end.” She had no idea why she volunteered this information but was sure that a man who sounded a bit French and looked like George Clooney was no threat to her or to her grandmother, who adored her deeply.
At that moment her mother’s words came back to her, warning her not to make eyes at strangers. Although she was tempted to take the offer of a lift, she decided to follow her mother’s advice for once. “Thank you for your kind offer, but it really isn’t far from here and I must hurry.”
Sharle bowed his head, which made Ethelred's stomach flip, and said, “Well, have it your way. I happen to be going near Acacia Drive. I hope we might meet again later.”
An awful encounter in which Little Ethelred saves her grandmother and gets herself a fortune
Little Ethelred felt rather breathless after this encounter and went into WH Smiths by mistake before she realised she didn’t want to go in there but was on her way to her grandmother’s, who adored her deeply. She turned round and tried to go out of the shop in a dignified fashion as though this was what she had meant to do in the first place. The thoughts of the man behind the till, as he watched her go, were far from dignified and Little Ethelred would have blushed had she known what he was thinking.
Little Ethelred turned into Acacia Drive and up the long shrub-lined driveway to her grandmother’s house. The front door was slightly ajar and this puzzled Little Ethelred as grandmother, who adored her deeply, was always banging on about the crime rate in the area. She pushed the door open and called out, “Grandmother. Are you in?”
Her heart was in her mouth as she suddenly thought, what if she was right after all about the crime rate in the area and has been burgled? What if the burglars are still here?
She heard a moan from the direction of the kitchen and then thought, what if she’s ill? She’s hungry and destitute and might have collapsed with weakness. Her own love for her grandmother, who she adored deeply, took over and she pushed open the kitchen door.
Standing near the Aga was her grandmother wrapped in the arms of a strange man. He was wearing a sheepskin coat. His face was fastened to grandmother’s face and he looked like he was trying to eat her.
“Grandmother!” exclaimed Little Ethelred, who wasn’t used to seeing grandmother in the clutches of anyone let alone a stranger.
Grandmother and the stranger in the sheepskin coat parted and she saw that the man looked like George Clooney.
“Oh, Little Ethelred,” said grandmother, bosom heaving in a way Little Ethelred had never seen before. “You don’t understand. This man made me do it. He’s been fleecing me of all my money and blackmailing me.”
“Blackmailing you? All your money? I thought you were destitute and hungry.”
“I am … nearly. I had money in Swiss banks that I was saving for your inheritance because I love you deeply. This man found out and has been threatening to go to the tax man and expose me.”
Little Ethelred couldn’t bear the thought of her grandmother, who loved her deeply, being exposed. She also couldn’t stand the thought of this man, who looked like George Clooney and who she had had fleeting feelings for herself, eating up her grandmother’s money and her own inheritance.
Little Ethelred of Red Roding Wood near Chelmsford thought quickly. It seemed that grandmother, who she had believed loved her deeply, had deceived her and her mother. If she stood to inherit a lot of money from Swiss bank accounts she would be rich and could live in the manner to which she was accustomed before her father had died and left them poor and bereft. So she took a bottle of very good expensive wine from the shopping bag she had brought and bashed her grandmother over the head with it.
The man who looked like George Clooney and was wearing a sheepskin coat approached Little Ethelred, his arms reaching out to her as if to sweep her off her feet and said, “I knew you would come. It was you I really wanted ever since I found out about you from your grandmother. When you told me where you were going I had to come so that I could see you again.”
Little Ethelred was extremely flattered and batted her eyelashes in a very well-practised fashion. It was a ploy to tip him off-guard though. She had had too much experience of men and knew that when she inherited the fortune from her grandmother, who had loved her deeply, he would try to get the money from her as well.
So she took a bottle of expensive French brandy from the shopping bag she had brought and bashed him over the head too.
Then she rang the police and told them she had just knocked out the man who killed her grandmother.
In time she did indeed inherit a substantial amount of money, after the tax man had taken his share, and she lived happily every after. On her own. As she had learned never to trust anyone again.