Two Sides to Every Story, By Janet Bucklew

This morning, as I washed my dirty clothing, a voice rang out though the clearing around my cottage. I looked up, and there stood my two children. They were covered in dirt and a substance that looked like soot. I didn’t care; they were truly alive as they ran into my arms.

I thought I was doomed to eternal punishment for my sins. Yet, Someone has forgiven my transgressions, and restored my precious children to me.

As we walked to our home, Gretel asked if their step-mother, Matilda, would be angry to learn the she and Hansel were home. I shook my head and told them their step-mother died of remorse when she realized my beloved children were not coming home again. That seemed to satisfy Gretel, and nothing more has been said of her.

There are two sides to every story.

I was deeply in love with my beautiful wife, Agna, whose name meant chaste and holy in our tongue. On our wedding night, she gently told me her name no longer held that meaning, for she had given herself to me completely. I smiled, stroked her soft skin, and told her she was holy, and I would perform worship rituals every night for the rest of our lives. She blushed, and then gave herself to me again. Soon, we delighted in the news of her pregnancy, and were astounded at our good fortune the day our twins were born. Hansel and Gretel were two beautiful, perfect children. Both resembled their happy, adoring mother.

When the twins were six, a fever plague rose in the countryside, with my fair Agna falling victim, dying in only three days. I was left with my children, and a sorrow that seemed to consume me. When the gypsy nomads traveled through our forest in their colorful wagons, one woman, Matilda, remained behind. She told me she was a teller of fortunes and read messages in tea leaves. Her tea leaves told her to stay with me and my children. I was so stupid. My grief made me numb to the warnings, but I allowed her to stay. Soon she was in my bed, telling me my children were a financial burden and should be left in the forest to die. Only then my luck would change and the two of us would be happy and wealthy forever. Or so she said.

I gave in, taking the children out into the forest. I lied to them, saying I would return at the end of my workday. I turned and walked away. Matilda met me at the door of our house, where she began telling me all was well, using her body to convince me. Then, a miracle, the children returned but Matilda was furious. She wove her magic again, and I left my own children, Agna’s beautiful children, out in the forest once more to die.

For two days, I believed Hansel and Gretel might return. Then, on the morning of the third day, I knew I had to change my life. I could no longer allow this witch of a consort to rob me of my soul. While God may have taken my Agna from me, I realized the Devil had stolen my children from me.

That morning, as I dressed, I reminded Matilda I needed her help in the forest. We were clearing a thicket of tangled vines and shrubs. I could not do the work on my own. Grumbling, she dressed, then gathered fruit and cheese for our midday meal. We walked out together into the morning light.

We walked farther into the forest than ever before. Matilda complained of the distance, and that her feet hurt. Finally, we stopped in a small, natural clearing. I smiled at her, “here my sweet, let’s rest and eat before we begin our day’s work.” She smiled, and lowered herself onto the grass provocatively.

I resisted Matilda’s advances, telling her we needed our strength to work through the day. She pouted, but following our meal, she worked alongside me. The sun shifted to the west, and shadows fell through the trees where we were working.

“Oh, Gustav, my arms are so tired from moving branches, and I can hardly stand on my legs, they feel so weak. You may have to carry me back to our house.”

“Don’t worry, my pet, Gustav will take care of you.”

With that, I grabbed Matilda and threw her against a nearby oak tree, pinning her by her neck.

“You have had your way with me long enough,” I growled in her ear. “You have used your charms and spells for the last time. My Agna is gone, and so are my children. You convinced me to leave my children to die,” my words now venomous and harsh. Matilda, that witch, looked at me and snarled.

Gasping for breath, she spit her words at me. “You are a weak and pitiful excuse for a man, let alone a father. I only encouraged you to act on your thoughts. Those brats stole your love from me as well as food from our table. I can do so much for you, let me go,” she demanded, while trying to pry my fingers from her throat.

So, I let her go.

Then I killed her.

I buried her body deep in the forest, covering my tracks with leaves and brush. No one will ever find Matilda.

The next morning, my children were restored to me. We cried, as they told me some fanciful story of a house made of candy, and a witch that wanted to bake and eat Hansel. Personally, I believe they suffered from hallucinations brought on by hunger. Yet, when they emptied their pockets and apron of pearls, I was willing to believe anything they said.

I told them Matilda died of a broken heart; they told me stories of a witch. I pray that is the only lie I ever tell my children. My heart is changed. I will never allow anything or anyone to come between me and my children. I have my most precious treasures; my children. They are all the riches I require.

Janet has had a story published in EC previousy. Click here to learn more about her and the story.



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