Bedtime Story: Part 2 (Gretel)

Lauren K. Alleyne

I did not know this father

running out to greet us, weeping,

pinching our cheeks and tousling our hair,

lifting us off our feet and pushing

our heads into his heaving shoulders.

He welcomed us in, and stoked the fire

to warm our hands. Over mugs of milk,

he told us how he had been saved

from the demons of wrath and whiskey,

how he repented of his ill deeds

and had prayed that he might live

to make amends to us, his beloved

children. He raised his hands to the sky

in gratitude. Where is stepmother? I asked,

craning my neck, searching the corners.

His face darkened. She had tried to poison him

with her strange roots and herbs,

he said. She had stolen his children.

I burned her for the witch she was, he said,

and grief flared — a sudden heat — stinging

my eyes like smoke.


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