Hansel and Gretel sat in their chairs, facing the crackling fire. They had spent most of the day indoors watching the swirl of snow out the cottage windows. By lunchtime there had been more than a foot of snow piling up outside their door. Just before dinner, Hansel had trudged out into the storm to check on the horse and bring in a load of wood. Winter had flirted with the woods for the past several weeks, but today had marked the first true snow.
Apart from the click and tick of Gretel’s knitting needles and the pops and hisses from the hearth, there was a peaceful quietness in the cottage. Gretel counted her stitches, knit-purl-purl-knit, fluffing the magenta afghan that grew across her lap. She paused, adjusting her needles and looked across the worn rug to where Hansel sat whittling. His lap was filled with shavings from the block of pine he was carving. Gretel could smell the fresh scent of the wood.
“What are you working on?” she whispered, hesitant to break the companionable silence of the evening.
Hansel looked up from his work and smiled, “A little something for you.” He held out his palm revealing the beginning of a tulip. The petals curled out gently, delicate and smooth. Gretel’s fingers fluttered to her mouth, the surprise of Hansel’s creation catching her by surprise. She felt tears burn at her eyes and she blinked rapidly, willing herself to stay collected.
“It’s lovely, Hansel,” she chocked out, swallowing hard. “You truly have a gift. Such precise and intricate cuts. It’s exquisite.”
Even in the muted glow of the fire, Gretel could see the color rise in Hansel’s cheeks. He was easily embarrassed by compliments and was quick to shrug off her praise. “It’s nothing really. Just a little flower.” He laid the flower in his lap among the shavings and set to sharpening his knife, a nervous response to Gretel’s admiration.
His sister cocked her head and smiled. She pursed her lips, weighing her next words. She wished to show Hansel the hummingbird, but she was still hesitant to talk about their father. She still felt no desire to see him, but many of those deep wounds that she had guarded in her heart had begun to heal. She was grateful for the past weeks of freedom, freedom from the pain of abandonment she had suffered. She now found herself able to reflect back on moments with her father without the familiar bitterness or sorrow.
But would Hansel see this as an opportunity to suggest a reunion? Would he pressure her to meet with their father? She turned her gaze to the fire, letting her knitting needles rest in her lap. This wrestling within was tiring, she felt worn thin from her worrying and wondering. She closed her eyes a moment and made her decision.