Gingerbread Heart

Jessica Maria Hirmer
Gingerbread Heart
This year the Engel family made a dream of theirs come true. The journey had been long, however they had arrived and now they were enjoying their vacation in the middle of nature. Like a cure for the soul, as if time was standing still.
The parents were tired from their trip to the lake. They drank tea on two deck chairs. They waved at the kids, who went off to play.
“Let us play Hansel and Gretel,” the sister called to her brother. “You are Hansel, I am Gretel and the evil witch – we are still looking for her.”
“Oh no, not Hansel – the name itself is silly.”
“Similar to Hannes, so for you I’m changing it to Hannes. You call me Greta, I would prefer that. Do you already have stage fright? There it is, the dark forest! Soon we will have an adventure!”
That made Hannes uneasy, “What can we drop for the way back? I still have cake but it would probably be better not to use the crumbs for that. And stones we would have to look for first.”
“Well, we are not entering the undergrowth. Let us try something else. Don’t you have your knife nearby?”
“Of course I have my knife.”
“Then let’s carve marks into the tree bark and I will find the way for sure.” That started a minor dispute, however when it was over Hannes was ready.
And so the kids carved, one can hardly believe it, a mark in nearly every tree that stood at the wayside.
They arrived at a building on a hill, more like a ruin. They stood in front of it and considered for a while if this could be the cottage. No gingerbread attached? They leaped over the brick fence and looked at the walls more closely. They spied through the window. A frowning face. They backed off.
“There she is, the witch!” Greta called delightedly. They dared themselves to peek in again and saw the witch jump back from the window, her cookies on the table. Greta asked suspiciously, “Is this your gingerbread house?” Then the witch, contrary to her reflexes, invited them into her cottage, since they were so enthusiastic about it.
So she had the children in the house. They found the gingerbread heart on the wall, on which “My Sweetheart” was written. “That you better not eat now,” she heard herself say. And naturally questions followed up immediately.
“Have the remains already been crunched away?”
“What remains? The remains of the shooting match are in the confectionary wagon,” the witch said uncomfortably. “Once there must certainly have been more here.”
“More what?” And she thought of all the fun that she had then had, when the giver had still been here. Obviously she had gotten a lot more than this gingerbread heart. That had only been a hoax actually. She had gotten jewellery and flowers, as expressions of his love. But those had only been gestures, more important to her had been his glance. He had looked at her, intimately and affectionately. She had felt so precious, so utterly in his arms. But he had left and she now remained, trapped in memories. Withering away.
Quietly she cried. The tears rolled. The kids thought about what they could do. Perhaps they nicked the remaining gingerbread, robbing her. Hannes took out his own cake. Good thing, that he hadn’t crumbled it on the way to the house. He gave it to the witch, but she didn’t take it. Her entire face was filled with tears.
“What is going on?” Greta asked confused. “Are you sour, because we climbed over the fence? Or don’t you want to be the evil witch?”
“What evil witch? You aren’t a child any longer”, the witch sobbed heavily.
“Technically I am, since I am not yet 14 years old. Therefore in court you can’t sue me…” Greta dared to say.
The witch was in such a sorry state. At the moment however she focused her attention on the Greta-child. Had it really come this far, that this pubescent saw her as a witch? And she didn’t find that to be threatening at all? Yet it seemed that the child had a brain.
“I would rather wish to be a princess,” the witch said to little Greta.
“You are not beautiful.” It wasn’t even said jokingly and so the witch’s almost merciless answer: “Expensive clothing and a young face, that’s all beauty is for you right? Would you like to fry me in the oven now, so that your ideals of beauty aren’t shaken up?”
“Then be a princess if you want,” Greta started.
“Let me be the wise witch,” she replied taking down the gingerbread heart off the wall. She had never noticed before how much it had begun to stink. She gave it to Greta, “Please dispose of it for me.” Hannes was still standing there with his cake. The witch took it, “More weight certainly won’t harm my beauty.” She guided the children to the door, “Are you going to find your way back?”
“We scratched marks into the trees.”
“Then we know already, who is harming the trees.”
Sheepishly Greta remarked, “The gingerbread heart I can take care of well.” They left the witch behind, back with her closets filled with expensive clothes and found their way back instantly. There was no luck involved in that. Greta stroked over the bark several times - as a thank you for finding their path so easily.
They encountered their parents on the deck chairs, as if time had stood still, as if nothing had happened at all.
“There you are again!” Their mother called cheerfully. She looked at Greta’s hand. “What have you got there?” Greta looked down. She saw a bag full of crumbs where a short while ago a gingerbread heart had been. She had wanted to keep it as a souvenir.
“I’m going to throw it away,” she briefly said and went down. She looked for a ledge located nearby. She stood on top of it and waited for the wind. When the wind came, she tore the bag and shook it out. The crumbs flew away in the wind. She looked after them. The empty bag she folded up and stuffed it into her trouser pocket. Perhaps she would keep the bag.

Translation: Shannon Wardell
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