Bedtime Story: Part 2 (Gretel)
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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