As Gretel pulled the front door open, the arctic air caught in her lungs and made her cough. She was startled by the iciness of the morning and was filled with a sudden gratefulness for their warm cottage and blazing fire. She squinted into the early morning light, looking for Hansel’s tracks. She could tell from his footprints in the snow that he had been to the barn to check on Bree. His footsteps led out of the barn and to the wood shed and then back out again. With her eyes, Gretel followed his steps around the bend of the cottage.
Slipping on her boots, she carefully stepped onto the porch, closed the door behind her and made her way around to the right. She used Hansel’s footsteps as her path, stepping her booted feet into his larger prints. Staring into the bright sun, she could barely make out his trail ahead of her. She stopped in her tracks when she heard voices.
Hansel stood just inside the edge of the forest talking to someone, another man. Their voices were low, she could just barely make out their murmurs. She peered into the shadows, but couldn’t make out any forms. Gretel rocked back and forth on her feet. Feeling the biting cold through her shawl, she rubbed her arms and wished she had grabbed her cloak. She felt her feet turning to ice in her boots. Apart from the cold, she also felt uneasy standing there in the snow. She didn’t want Hansel to think that she was eavesdropping, but she was curious. Who was he talking to? Why be so secretive?
Soon the cold became too much for Gretel. She turned and made her way back through the snow to the front porch. Stamping her feet, she shook the frosty snow off her boots and stepped into the welcome heat of the cottage. Leaving her frozen boots by the front door, she hurried to the fireplace and sat in her chair, facing the fire. She rubbed her hands and arms, slowly feeling them thaw. She pulled the afghan she was knitting out the basket by her chair and draped the warm wool over her lap. Within a few moments she felt the cold ache leave her body and she sighed with relief. She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes, the warmth of the fire suddenly making her feel sleepy. Her body relaxed, but her mind still fretted with the mysterious meeting in the woods.