Everyone has heard of Hansel and Gretel; the story of the two little children, whose parents abandoned them in the middle of the woods and their unfortunate run-in with a witch who tried to eat them. I tell you, it's a conspiracy. I was never the one to blame; those two twisted the story to make it sound like they were the victims. But it was me; I was the one who almost died in my own oven. I was the one who suffered third degree burns and I have the scars to prove it. And it is I who is still suffering after several months of recovery and therapy. And don't even get me started on the hospital bills. I thought it was all over once I had gotten out of the hospital, but then I read that dratted story in the paper. And I was not very happy about what it contained.
I was a kind lady who minded her own business, thank you very much. And I hated the fact that those little brats had spread all those horrendous rumors about what happened; only to save their own skins! I wouldn't be here if it weren't for all those published stories and such that those two have conned the whole world into believing. Because they didn't have to go telling everyone what happened. It wasn't like it was anyone else's business; especially since it wasn't the real tale in the first place.
First of all, my name is Linda Johnson and I'm twenty-two years old; currently helping my parents with the family business. Making and packaging Gingerbread house kits to sell any time of the year. It sounds surprising, but you wouldn't believe the number of people who want those kits in the middle of July! Some people are a little strange… Anyway, I'm a normal person who does normal things. Oh, and just so we're clear: I am not a witch. I don't even know how that rumor even got started. I just live by myself in the middle of the woods… is that so very wrong of me? Last time I checked it wasn't a crime to live in the middle of the woods. Is it my fault that people think I'm a little strange because of the way I live and end up making rumors about me because of it?
I chose to live in the middle of the woods for two reasons: privacy and silence. When I moved out of my parent's house five years ago, I wanted a nice quiet place to call home. Well, I wasn't going to get that in the huge, bustling city that I had grown up in, now was I? So, the woods seemed the perfect place for me, at the time I had no idea that my little plan was going to cause so many problems.
Ever since I was a young girl, I've had this weird dream; a dream that involved me living in my very own edible house. I don't know why I had that idea in my head… I was always a fan of gingerbread houses when I was younger, so I think that might have had something to do with it. That dream initially led me to buying the few acres of land in the middle of the forest near a little town since I knew that there would be less of a chance that I would be bothered.
It took several weeks for me to build my little cottage in the little clearing in the middle of the forest. Once it was complete, the house looked beautiful. It was a life size version of the gingerbread houses I used to build as a child every year around Christmas time. The outside was made entirely of huge slabs of brown baked gingerbread – I baked these in my parent's huge oven before I installed one in my own house. Each piece of gingerbread that made up the four walls were covered with giant gum drops, while the two slabs that came together to form the roof were dripping with a thick layer of hardened icing covered with hundreds of sprinkles. The windows were made of nothing but sugar. There were also a few candy canes scattered about the yard as well. I loved my little gingerbread house, it was different. I mean, anybody could make a house out of normal wood or metal, but a house built entirely of gingerbread was so very original.
Alright, now that I got that out, it's time to get to the real reason you happened to be reading this…. The real story of what happened between me and those children. And believe me it was all their fault.
It was a Friday, I remember because I was baking cookies for a book club meeting I was going to be hosting the next day. I had just placed the unbaked dough in my smaller oven (for I had two, the bigger one was just for baking replacement gingerbread in) when I started hearing some very odd noises coming from outside my front door. The sounds of eating and chewing were muffled slightly, but still distinguishable. I ignored them at first thinking that they were nothing, just some animal that would go away eventually. But, the more I listened the more I realized that whatever was out there had no intentions of leaving anytime soon. Though, I was still confused about whether my little visitors were human or animal when there was a loud crunch that sounded an awful lot like hands ripping a chunk off my roof. Once I heard that, I was pretty sure that they were humans, not animals, since; no animal I know of could reach the roof, at least not enough to break a decent sized chunk off it. I thought it was strange, I lived relatively far into the forest with no direct path, so I had never come across another human being before. Well, at least not one that didn't knock before they started eating parts of my house. That thought alone pissed me off… I mean really, the nerve of some people! Just because it doesn't look like a normal house doesn't mean no one lives there.
That was my thought as I made my way to the front door. By the time I reached it, I was even angrier. Any person should know better than to start eating someone else's house. That's just rude. Though, normal houses aren't built out of food, but that's really not the point.
So, I opened the door ready to yell at the person who decided that it was a good idea to make a meal out of my house without knocking first. But, the words of anger died in my throat when I saw the two people who were munching on my edible house. They were children, a boy and a girl; I could tell they were siblings since they looked so much alike. The same shade of blonde hair and bright green eyes. They were most likely twins and no older than the age of twelve I would guess. The little girl had broken off half of the gumdrop off the door while the little boy was eating a piece of gingerbread he had managed to break off from the roof. I scrunched my nose up as I realized that they hadn't wiped the pieces off before they shoved them in their mouths. They were far too hungry to care that they were currently ingesting more than just a part of my house; they were also eating the dirt, leaves and pine straw that had managed to accumulate over the weeks between my monthly cleaning.
Most of my anger had died when I saw them, but a little part remained when I realized what they happened to be eating, mostly the boy, since, because of him, I was going to have to spend several hours replacing the roof. But, they both looked so hungry and pathetic that my anger was replaced by sympathy for the poor things.
"Oh… you poor dears. Are you lost?" I asked, "Poor things… come in, and I'll cook you a real meal."
They glanced quickly at one another, I'm sure they were a little nervous because they had probably been taught not to go inside a stranger's house. Though, I think the hunger overrode anything that they had been taught by their parents because a few seconds later they were nodding and dropping the pieces of my house on the ground (something that I wasn't really pleased to see, but I let it go) as they followed me inside the house. I led them down the small little hallway that opened up to my little kitchen. I sat them down at the small table before going about fixing them a proper dinner, which ended up not being that much, just a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, since I knew that those were a good bet to get them to eat. Most kids loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; well at least that's how it was when I was growing up. My assumption was right because the minute I placed the plate in between them, they practically attacked it and began eating as fast as they could. I poured them both glasses of milk and then stepped back and let them eat.
It didn't take that much time before I started to regret ever inviting them inside in the first place because I realized (rather quickly) that they had not been taught proper manners. Honestly, I was appalled at how rude they were! I didn't hear a "thank you" after I gave them the sandwiches or the milk and I sure as hell didn't hear a "please" when they asked for more. It was always "I want this" and "give me more of that". But me, being the kind lady that I am, I ignored their rudeness and proceeded to grant them their wishes anyway. Smiling, rather forcibly, I obeyed all the different demands they threw at me.
It seemed like (and probably was) hours before they were finally through practically eating everything in sight and touching everything with their grubby, little hands. Throughout their long meal I continued to grant them their wishes even though they really didn't deserve it. I shouldn't have acted so nice to them and I regret it now, but I still felt kind of sorry for the poor things, even if they were completely annoying.
Though, I realized quickly that I still did not know what they were doing in the middle of the woods this late in the afternoon anyway.
"What are two young children doing in the middle of the forest this late in the day?" I asked, as I watched then eat, trying to hide my look of disgust.
They turned to me; the boy didn't even finish chewing before he opened his mouth to respond, "Our parents accidently left us." he answered, his mouth still full of half chewed peanut butter and jelly.
I ignored his disgusting eating habit, "Oh! You poor things, that's horrible!" I said when I found that out, I still felt bad for the children, but… to be honest, my sympathy was already starting to waiver by this point.
They were done soon after that revelation and since it was getting dark out, I decided to let them spend the night. Even though they had been downright rude to me, I couldn't just kick them out in the dark, no matter how impolite they had acted towards me and my hospitality thus far. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. They were just young children after all and I was sure that they would come to their senses and show some form of respect to me. Looking back now, I regret ever being nice to those little brats. If I could go back, knowing what they would eventually do to me, I would have kicked them out right after they had eaten and I wouldn't have let them act so rude towards me and my hospitality to begin with. Though, maybe if I hadn't been such a pushover and a sucker for small, pathetic looking children eating my house, none of this would have happened…
Anyway, I led them upstairs to the guest bedroom. And, of course they didn't even thank me for the bed; they just crawled under the covers and went to sleep without so much as a word to me. That just annoyed me even more and made it abundantly clear that they had not been raised properly at all. It also made me think that the little brats were lucky that it was dark out; otherwise, I really would have thrown them out on their butts.
I couldn't help but think as I made my way downstairs that the little brats hadn't simply been left in the middle of the woods. They probably had been purposely abandoned by their parents who, I realized now, had a very good reason for abandoning them in the first place, if their rude behavior towards me was any indication. No wonder they purposely left them, I probably would have done the same thing.
The next morning, I was baking a cake for a friend's birthday, minding my own business when Hansel came downstairs, "I'm hungry, what's for breakfast?" were the first words he said to me, no "good morning" or "hello" from him… he just got straight to the point. I rolled my eyes, but turned to face him with a smile that was somewhat forced.
"Well, if you would just give me a few moments, I'll have something for you in just a minute." I explained calmly I was not going to lose my temper. I was going to feed the little brats and then kindly ask them to leave. That was the plan.
He looked at me, clearly not happy if the frown on his face was any indication. "What about that?" he asked.
He was pointing at the just baked cake sitting on the counter. I had just taken it out of the oven and I was getting ready to put icing on it before he interrupted.
"You can't have that." I said.
"Why not?" he asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
I sighed, "Because first of all, it's not for you and second of all, cake isn't a very nutritional breakfast."
"But, I want it!" he whined.
His pathetic whimpering only made my resolve to never have children strengthen. I gritted my teeth, not wanting to snap at him, but his attitude was making that difficult.
"Look… I'll start making breakfast in a few minutes, okay? So, just go sit and calm down, and be patient, otherwise you're not going to get anything." I threatened.
He rolled his eyes, "Fine." he muttered, not looking very happy as he followed my orders and sat down at the table.
I turned back around intent on finishing what I was doing before doing what he wanted me to do. This was my house and he was going to do things my way, not his. I had already let them practically take advantage of me yesterday and I wasn't about to let that happen again.
I was reaching for the icing on the top shelf of the cabinet when Hansel jumped me from behind. I gasped out of shock more than actual pain. He was a twelve year old boy so he wasn't that heavy, thank God for that. He started smacking me on the head with one hand while the other was wrapped rather tightly around my neck; it wasn't tight enough to choke me, but it was enough to hurt quite a bit. I attempted to get the little monster off my back. I tried everything to get him to move, but nothing worked… the little brat seemed to be glued to me as he started yelling obscenities at me. I don't remember much of what he said, though I do remember hearing the words: "bitch", "shit" and "god damnit" and I think I heard a "fuck" or two during his long-winded hissy fit. I was really shocked and appalled (seriously, what kind of parent teaches a child words like that?) at his mouth, since he was saying things that a twelve year old should not be saying or even know for that matter. I think he was angry that he couldn't have the cake. At least, that's what I've assumed. I've never really figured out what got him so riled up in the first place. But, that really is the only logical explanation for his crazy behavior.
So, this is where the cage came in. Why did I have the cage you ask? I used to have a dog, he died a few years ago from cancer, I have the medical papers to prove it if you don't believe me. Anyway, the cage happened to be the only way that I could get him off me, so I could talk some sense into him. But my words did nothing but make him angrier, so I calmly explained to him that he was going to stay in that cage until he came to his senses and stopped trying to attack me. "Think of it as a punishment." I explained before I rose from my position and turned around and went about my business, giving him time to calm down.
But, you know that didn't last long… when little Gretel came downstairs and found her brother in the cage, she turned on me.
"He attacked me and said things that no twelve year old boy should even know. He will stay in that cage until he's calm again." I explained when I saw her look, since I knew very well what she was going to ask.
Gretel didn't like that answer, "Why would my brother attack you?" she asked.
I shrugged "I don't know, but he's staying in that cage until I feel that he's calmed down enough. I will not have him hurting me in my own house, especially after I have been very nice to both of you ever since you arrived."
After I said that, I had expected little Gretel to come to her senses and at least apologize for her and her brother's rudeness, but she didn't. Instead she looked annoyed at my response, probably because she didn't like it, "I want you to unlock my brother out of that cage, right now." she ordered, glaring at me, her arms crossed over her small chest.
"Dear, he's in there for his own good. And, like I just said, he will stay in there until he is calm again," I explained, staring at the boy as he continued to glare daggers at me behind the metal bars of the cage.
Gretel liked that answer even less than the one before it, but before she could respond, I said "If you don't be quiet, you'll end up in the same place as him." Okay, so maybe that wasn't the best way to handle the situation. But, what else was I supposed to do? I couldn't have the little monsters running amuck in my house if they were going to attack me. I only did it for my own protection.
Gretel calmed down after that. Well, she didn't really, but she did stop glaring at me and demanding that I let her brother out. So, I gave her some chores to do for me while I went about cooking breakfast since I had every intention of feeding them and getting them out of my house as soon as possible. That was another mistake on my part. I should have never let that little brat out of my sight. She spent more time snooping around my little cottage then actually doing the chores that she agreed to do for me. She managed to find where I kept all my jewelry, most of which were family heirlooms and worth a fortune, I didn't just leave them lying around. She had to do some serious snooping to find them hidden away in my closet, under a huge pile of clothes. I can only guess that this was when she got the great idea to steal them. But, they were heavy: too heavy for a ten year old girl to carry all by herself. So, she was going to need Hansel's help in order to carry some of it. And of course, she would have to get rid of me to actually have a chance to take anything.
I was standing near my large oven, testing the heat, to see if it was warm enough yet before I placed the large slab of gingerbread inside (I was going to fix the part of the roof that Hansel had destroyed the night before), when Gretel came downstairs and proceeded to shove me into it. There was no talk and no persuasion of her to get in first, as that nasty little girl said there was. I cried out in shock and pain as the flames engulfed me. I heard the oven door slam shut and the lock click.
I honestly thought that I was going to die that day. It's not like anyone actually comes to visit me and I knew that those two little monsters were long gone. At least I assumed they were, but it really was hard to tell because I couldn't hear a thing in the oven except for my own heavy breathing and all I could feel was the flames licking painfully at every inch of my skin. I screamed at the sensation as I banged my hand loudly on the oven door. The door, since it was metal, heated up fast, but I continued to bang on it; hoping and praying that someone – anyone – would hear and come to my rescue. It took only a few seconds before I could not only feel the flames licking at my skin, but I could also smell the disgusting stench of burning flesh; my flesh. I couldn't see anything, it was pitch black in there, so of course… the senses that I did have were increased tenfold. I had been told that that was what happened when you lost one of your senses, but I have never expected to actually witness it, especially in such horrible and life threatening conditions.
I was still banging on the metal door, trying to shift, but anywhere I moved just caused me more pain. There was just no way to escape the flames or the rapidly heating oven. I figured that if the flames didn't kill me then the rapid heating of the oven to its maximum temperature would certainly do the trick. I cursed myself, for it was all my fault that I was in this situation. I just had to buy the oven that not only heated up the fastest, but also heated up to the highest temperature. And I just had to feel sorry for those little brats and invite them inside.
God, I'm such a pushover. And, that's really sad.
And, yes… I was still burning in the oven during this whole spiel of feeling sorry for myself. To be honest, I was pretty sure that I was going to die. Though I had no intentions of giving up even when I was pretty sure it was useless, so I was still knocking, rather weakly on the door, trying very hard not to pass out, when it suddenly flung open and the shocked and horrified faces of several of the book club members filled my vision. There was shouting and screaming, but I was too far gone to decipher any of the horrified voices.
I heard, rather than felt, the oven being shut off before several pairs of hands, only two of which were actually covered with oven mitts, reached into the rapidly cooling oven to pull me out. I barely felt the hands; my skin was too burned for my touch sensors to notice anything other than blinding pain my entire body was now enduring.
"Oh my God, Linda… are you okay?" I didn't know who had spoken; I was too out of it.
I tried to open my mouth to give a response, possibly a sarcastic one along the lines of: "Do I look okay to you?" but I could barely move, let alone open my mouth to form a coherent sentence.
So, I just lay on the floor where I had been deposited and listened as an ambulance was called, "Yes it's serious! We found her in the damn oven! From what I can tell, it looks like it's a mixture of second and third degree burns…"
I drowned the frantic voice out and closed my eyes, someone was whispering soothing things to me while my legs and arms were being elevated and I groaned when I suddenly felt a sea of cold water hit my exposed stomach before it was patted dry and some cloth was placed over the area. This was repeated several times and I must have passed out during this treatment because the next time I woke up, I was in a very white hospital room and strapped to at least five machines.
I found out a little later that several of the book club members had decided to come over a little early to help me with anything that I needed before the meeting started at noon. They had heard my screaming from several yards away and they had to knock the door down to get to me in time. I owe my life to those girls… if it weren't for them, I would be dead.
A thought that – to this day – still scares me.
It took months and quite a bit of money for me to recover. And even now, I'm not completely recovered, nor will I ever be. The horrific burns will always be on my skin, a permanent reminder of my whole ordeal with those little brats. I never got my jewelry back, though I think I saw a pair of my favorite pearl earrings for sell by a local street vendor a few days ago. They were a very special pair of earrings that had been passed down in my family from mother to daughter for generations, and those little brats had given them to their parents who had promptly sold them as if they were nothing. I can only assume that they did that with every piece of jewelry that they stole from me that day.
Of course I'm very angry about my jewelry being stolen, but I'm really just glad to be alive.
"You got the story very wrong." I said, glaring at the news reporter.
He sputtered for a moment, pushing his rounded glasses back up his nose. He was obviously trying to come up with a response that wouldn't piss me off even more, "I am sorry –"
"No you're not." I interrupted, "If you were, you would have come to me after those little monsters told you the wrong story to get my side of it before even thinking about publishing it."
"Well I –"
"What the hell kind of reporter writes an article without getting all the facts anyway? You should be ashamed of yourself! It's because of you and those little brats that I no longer have a quiet life! My privacy is practically non-existent now. It's because of you that I have to deal with gawkers everywhere I go, and it's not only because of the damn burns. I've had to fix my house several times because people think it's funny to destroy it now. I'm not safe in town or in my house. And, it's all because of you!"
The man gulped slightly, "Look, Mrs. –"
"Miss" I corrected, "I sure as hell am never going to get married thanks to you. Men want to make fun of me, not date me."
"Okay… well, Miss Johnson, I truly am sorry. I tried to get in contact with you for several weeks, but I never could and –."
"That's because I was in the hospital!" I explained, "Besides, if you tried and never got in contact with me then you should never have published the story in the first place. That's what any honest journalist would have done."
"Those little brats paid you, didn't they?" I asked, I had no idea where the thought came from, but there it was and it made perfect sense. Those little brats used the money their family got from selling my own jewelry to pay this reporter to publish their story without coming to me first.
"Well… um… I…" his sputtering was all I needed to confirm my thought.
"I should report you for unethical journalism." I said, pointing a threatening finger at him.
His eyes widened at the threat, "Please… don't do that!" he pleaded.
"Why not?" I asked, "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't! You pretty much ruined my life; I think it's only fair… that yours is ruined too. Since, you let those little brats pay you to publish their very one-sided story! What kind of honest journalist does that anyway?" I asked.
"Please! Don't report me. I have a family and two children that need me! I'll do anything to make this right, but please don't report me."
"You want to make this right?" I asked, he nodded, "Then, I want you to publish my side of the story." and with that I threw the article, the one I've been writing for the past three weeks, on the table and turned to leave.
I stopped before I stepped out of the small office and turned around to face the man once more, "And if you so much as think of not doing what I say, then I will make sure the whole world knows what a fraud you really are." I threatened before I turned on my heel and left the office.
Three days later…
'Other Half of Hansel and Gretel Story is Told'
The headline made me smile. I skimmed the article, only to realize that it was told in my words exactly. The guy had simply copied my words from the story I had handed him before storming out of his office. Not that I was complaining, I was just happy that my side of the story finally got out.
After months of enduring all the crap those little brats had caused me, I had finally gotten my side of the story out. And, already… my little house is quiet. There is nobody throwing things, yelling insults or just plain causing a nuisance for the first time in weeks.
It's nice. I can finally enjoy a quiet night at home without having to worry about someone sneaking up only to vandalize my property.
I sat back in my comfy reading chair, skimming through the rest of the paper, not really finding anything of much interest to read about. I was just starting to read an article about the local school's budget cuts when I started hearing strange noise outside my door. I strange sense of déjà vu washed over me and I groaned, "Not again…" I muttered, getting up, I made my way towards the door, knowing exactly what I was going to do when I opened it.
I opened the door to find exactly what I expected: two little children, a girl and a boy, both eating a part of the gum drop off the door. They stopped when they heard the sound of the door open. Their eyes were wide, as if they had just been caught with their hands stuck in the cookie jar. They dropped what they had been eating and just stared at me. I guess I was a rather strange sight with my still healing burns practically covering my entire body.
"Good morning, dears" I said, a fake smile forming on my lips, "Is there a reason why you two have decided to make my house your breakfast?" I asked, I wasn't rude, but I wasn't really that nice either. I really just wanted an explanation before I made them leave. I was not about to let them come in. I already did that once and I'd rather not have a repeat of that if I can prevent it.
I interrupted their stuttering, "Yea… that's what I thought. I've already been tricked by children eating my house before… and I'm not about to fall for it again. So, if you wouldn't mind, please leave. I'll give you a few minutes and if you're not off my property, I'll be calling the police." I warned
They only stared at me, their eyes wide.
I sighed, "Did you not hear me?" I asked, "Please get off my property before I call the police!" I ordered.
They gulped, nodding their heads before running off.
I stood still in some form of shock… I hadn't really expected it to be that easy. I stood in the doorway for a few minutes letting it sink in before stepping into the house and closing the door quietly as I went.
God, if it had been that easy then maybe I should have just done that the first time… would have saved me a hell of a lot of trouble.