Looking back, perhaps we shouldn’t have done what we did. We were young, we were desperate, we were so hopped up on sugar we didn’t know what we were doing.
She was partly to blame. Whose gingerbread cottage was it? That’s right. If you build your residence out of confectionery and don’t have so much as a fence around it, you can only expect to have chunks bitten out of it when two hungry, frightened children stumble upon it.
Perhaps that’s why she locked my brother in the pantry. Perhaps she thought we were literally going to eat her out of house and home. Bit of an overreaction, a citizen’s arrest. And then she didn’t even call the cops. She kept him locked in but she made sure he had plenty to eat while I did all the bloody housework for her to compensate her for the bits of her dwelling we had devoured.
Like I said, we were frightened. Our parents had turfed us out – they couldn’t afford to feed us, they said. We were tearaways with no respect for anybody. I blame the ruling class. They made things tough for our parents – no wonder they abandoned us.
And what kind of future will we have now, my brother and me?
We can claim it was self-defence. We can claim it was her or us. But who are they going to believe, two tearaways disowned by their own parents, or a frail old feeble old woman who lives alone in the woods?
They’ll throw the key away and chalk up another mark against the wayward youth of this kingdom.
I kept asking when will our debt be paid. And she kept saying one more day, dearie, one more day. Stupid old witch.
And then I found the shoes. Dozens and dozens of pairs of children’s shoes, all colours and all sizes, filling every drawer in the house. I asks her about them and she goes crazy. She tells me I’d soon find out what happens to naughty little girls who couldn’t keep their noses out. And she grabs a knife and pulls my brother from the pantry. She’s going to stuff him in the oven and he’s crying to me to help him so I grabs the tablecloth and chucks it over her head. While she’s stumbling around, flailing and flapping, we both rushes at her and it’s her what goes in the oven. We slam the door shut and we peg it out of there. The old woman’s screaming is enough to bring the house down but Hansel has a better idea. He grabs a log from the fireplace and whoosh, the whole wall goes up. We pelt it out into the forest and we watch, breathless and exhilarated, as the gingerbread house goes up in smoke. And the old woman is screaming no more.
And I’m glad. I’m glad she’s dead.
My only regret is I didn’t save the shoes. They all got burned up too. And now, without them, nobody’s going to believe a word of our story and we shall swing for it.
And our mum and dad, when they hear about us, will look at each other and say, Told you so.