To start at the beginning ...
“I’m sorry, too, Gretel,” Hansel said laying his own hand atop hers on his shoulder. “I should have been honest with you from the start. But ...,” his voice trailed off, “There never seemed to be the right time or the right way to tell you. He really does love...”
“No. Hansel, I don’t want to talk about him. I want, no, I need to be able to talk to you, but not about him. Please let this be. Maybe someday I’ll feel differently but today I don’t want to talk about him. Please.”
Hansel nodded, sadness etched in his features. Then he patted her chair at the table, “Have a seat and I’ll pour you some tea.”
Through breakfast they attempted to break the enduring awkwardness that hovered over them. Hansel shared a few more stories from the market day, steering clear of any reference of their father. Gretel listened quietly, but her thoughts strayed - imagining her father sitting at his table, picturing Hansel and her father embracing, visualizing her rather wrapping the bundle of bulbs, smiling. She shuddered, casting off the images and tried to focus on Hansel’s words.
“Are you cold? I can put another log on the fire.”
“No. It’s time to get busy anyway. I have some yard work to tend to and I’m sure that will warm me up.” Gretel pushed back her chair and gathered the plates and mugs.
“Can I help you clean up?” Hansel asked, his chair scraping as he pushed back from the table.
Gretel saw Hansel’s efforts to bridge the rift between them, but still she couldn’t shake the coldness she still felt in her heart. Normally she would have welcomed his help and his company. But not this morning. “No, thank you. It will just take me a few minutes. You go on ahead.” She turned to the kitchen with the breakfast dishes before he could protest, busying herself at the sink until she heard the front door close. The relief she felt at being alone was both, welcome and heartbreaking.