To start at the beginning ...
Gretel stumbled down the front steps, blinking back tears and shaking. When would she be free from those terrifying memories? Most days she lived quite happily in the gingerbread cottage. She enjoyed tending her garden. She loved the quiet peacefulness of the forest, save the frequent chittering and chattering of the woodland creatures. She appreciated Hansel more and more each day - his gentle character, his handiness with tools, his good-natured sense of humor, his willingness to help with chores and his reliable steadiness. She truly was happy to make this little cottage their home.
But sometimes, without any apparent warning, she would be overwhelmed with sadness. Or fear. Or worry. Or loneliness. Or worse, that terrible feeling of having been abandoned. These old demons chased her as she strode through the forest, stepping over logs and stooping under weighted branches.
Gretel marched around a stand of aspen trees and finally paused to look up at the forest. She braced herself against the trunk of one slender tree to catch her breath. She had been determined to put distance between her haunting memories and herself, and now she realized that she didn't know where she was. She looked for a familiar tree or bush. Ahead was an old gnarled pine tree, two warped branches twisted around one another. Across her path was an ancient log, hollowed out inside and covered with all manner of lichen and moss. It was most likely home to a warren of rabbits. She pulled up her skirt and apron and stepped over the fallen tree. She didn’t recognize any of the surrounding trees or bushes. She glanced down at the log again and it was then that she recognized the little blue flowers poking up through the brush. Without intending to her, her feet had found that overgrown path they had followed years before.
Gretel took a step backward and settled down on the log. She wiped the hem of her apron across her forehead. The afternoon was still steamy and hot and there were still several hours until the sun went down. Several hours for her to follow the forget-me-nots into the forest and possibly see her father. Or several hours for her to sit and relive those horrible days of hanging in the cage of old Lady Grimble’s cottage.
Abruptly she jumped to her feet. She wasn’t one to sit and feel sorry for herself. Nor was she one to allow the past to cloud and darken her present. She had spent most of the morning wandering through a mist of old nightmares allowing resentment and anger to ruin her day. No more. She knew deep in her heart that the time had finally come for her to face her past. And possibly her father.
Gretel stood up straight and tall, she took a deep breath and set off down the overgrown path. The delicate blue blossoms spread out in front of her, marking her way through the forest. She felt empowered and strengthened with this new resolution. Stronger and more confident than she had felt in years. If only Hansel was with her. He would be proud of her. And he would help her stay resolute and focused, especially as the forest became more familiar with each step. She was headed to the woods in which she had spent much of her childhood. And with each familiar tree, she felt her confidence challenged.