image from deviantart
While Gretel worked in the garden, caring for the sky blue lupine and the dusty purple field aster, Hansel took care of the red and white candy cane shutters and black licorice lattice of the cottage. They were a good team and Gretel was grateful they had each other. She was grateful she wasn't completely alone.
Again, her father's words fluttered through her thoughts, "Blood is thicker than water and family is sweeter than candy."
"Leave me alone," she grumbled to the ironweed she clutched in her hand. "Why can't you just leave me alone?" She stood and angrily brushed her hands against her apron again. She needed a change of scene. She headed to the front porch and sat in the shade of the cottage. In spite of her efforts, her thoughts returned to the past and the day her wicked stepmother successfully abandoned them to the woods.
She remembered being shaken awake while it was still dark. Her stepmother stood over her, Gretel's shawl and shoes in her bony hands.
"Get up and get dressed. We're getting an early start."
"Why? Where are we going?"
"Shhh... don't wake your father. Get up and wake your brother."
She had stumbled around in the dark to dress and find Hansel's shoes and cloak. Her stepmother stood at the door tapping her foot with her arms crossed sharply in front of her. Gretel could hear her father's whiffly snore from the back room. She thought for a moment that she might call out to him. But then the fear that he would turn his back on her again clutched at her heart and instead she walked toward the door.
"I'm hungry," mumbled Hansel sleepily.
"We've no time to eat," demanded the stepmother, "you can find some berries along the way."
Gretel felt panic rising in her chest. She had not prepared for this early morning exodus. She had no rocks this time and she looked around the dark kitchen in desperation. It was then that she spotted the coarse-grained bread on the table, left-over from last night's dinner. She quietly and quickly slipped the loaf of bread into the folds of her shawl and grasped Hansel's hand.