Sugar and Spice
by Melissa Mead
"It's time to take the children into the forest," said Stepmother.
Father winced. "Must we?" he said. I winced too. All the feasting in the world couldn't erase my memory of Stepmother angry, back when she was teaching me and Gretel to call her "Stepmother," and the man "Father."
But Stepmother just looked at him. "There is no food in the house," she said, slowly, reminding Father what an awful thing hunger is. My stomach growled like it was reminding him too. Father looked ill, and Stepmother smiled.
They left us in a new part of the forest, with no nut trees or berry bushes at all. Gretel and I both had empty stomachs by the time we found the gingerbread house. I'd eaten a shutter, and Gretel was chewing her way through a window, when we heard an old woman's voice.
"Nibble, nibble, little mouse. Who is nibbling at my house?"
I was too addled with sugary sweetness to reply, but Gretel is the clever one. No amount of food ever scrambles her wits. That's why we always stay together.
"It is the wind, only the wind!" she called back. Clever Gretel!
Of course, the old witch didn't believe we were only the wind. She pulled us both from the window and took us inside. Me she put in a pen, and gave me all the food I could dream of. Cakes and blood pudding. Pies and roast boar and sausages so hot they burned my mouth. I ate and ate.
Gretel she chained. Gretel is the clever one. The old witch made her sweep the floor and fetch water and put the kettle on the stove. Gretel did all that, but she watched me eating and eating, and her eyes burned. I ate faster. Things happen quickly when Gretel's eyes burn.