Orb's Year 941
But this was in rights his home... his heritage...
Claire scowled, "And why is that good luck? He'll be under-foot again..."
Claire's eyes lit up. "Will he suffice?"
Gene grinned. "I'm so happy for you! The house is so cheerful looking! It makes you want to just eat it up!"
Gretel laughed, "Well don't do that!" She looked around. "Do you really think it looks cheerful?" she asked. "Because sometimes I think that it's... I don't know... cold..."
Gene raised her eyebrow. "Cold? Maybe if you lit the fire?" she suggested.
Gretel waved her hand, "No, not like that. It's nothing anyway," she said with a shake of her head.
The girls froze and whirled to face Wilhelmina guiltily.
"And don't call me Grandmama! I am not your grandmother!"
"Yes ma'am. I'm sorry ma'am!" Gretel said in a hurry. It was on the tip of her tongue what the old witch wanted her to call her, but she didn't want to press her luck...
"You ungrateful, willful child! Don't you know I'm not to be bothered when I'm sleeping!" How was she supposed to craft her spells if there was all the infernal laughing and giggling in the house? "For your thoughtlessness, you will go without dinner tonight! You stay in your room!"
Hansel ran into her arms. He didn't understand why Gretel didn't love living here!
"I made you a special treat," Wilhelmina said, tapping his nose with her finger.
"I know, dear. Eat up!" she said fondly.
Hansel sat down and began shoveling the pastry into his mouth. He heard Grandmama saying something under her breath, but didn't turn to see.
"But Grandmama, I'm full.."
"That's enough of that, Hansel. You will sit and finish your treat!" she said sharply.
Hansel quickly sat back down and began eating, slower this time.
Keith reached for his wife's hand. "But Hansel loves it here. He's really bonded with my step-mother."
"That's another thing," Fanny argued. "Why is she so kind to Hansel and so short with Gretel?"
"Maybe she likes boys better?" he suggested. "I don't know. She never had children of her own... maybe she just doesn't know how to relate to the children..."
"I suppose," Fanny said, unconvinced.
"She's not likely to live forever, you know," Keith said. "Come now, let's not worry any more over it tonight. Let's get some sleep."
"No, five more minutes, Gretel," he pleaded.
"Oh, you goose. Get up!"
"I'm up... I'm up... Why didn't mama wake us up, though?"
Gretel frowned. "I don't know..."
"They're very sick, I'm afraid," Wilhelmina said with a clipped tone.
"Oh no!" Gretel said, starting to rise. "I must go check..."
"But, if I could just..." Gretel stopped when she met Wilhelmina's cold gaze. "Oh course."
Wilhelmina crossed her arms. "The Kitchen keeper sent a message that he would need you this afternoon after school since your parents are unwell."
"Yes, ma'am," Gretel dutifully responded. "Come on, Hansel. It's time for school," she announced.
"Hi Grandmama! How is mama and papa?" Hansel asked anxiously.
"Still very sick. But, I'm sure they'll be fine soon. Will you come over here and help me? I need help bringing the logs over to the fireplace?"
"Sure Grandmama!" Hansel said eagerly. He liked helping Grandmama! She gave him sweet treats!
"No, my dear, but soon you will help me quite a bit!" she said with a cackle.
"Don't worry, dear. It won't hurt in the least bit.. at least I don't think it will!" Wilhelmina laughed giddily.
"Is she... is she dead, Gretel?" Hansel asked softly.
Frowning, she glanced up at her brother. "I think she's dead..." she whispered.
"Mama!" Gretel cried out in horror.
"I don't know," Gretel admitted, reaching out to grasp her mother's hand. "Mama?" she whispered softly, shaking her mother.
"What are you talking about?" Fanny asked, feeling weak. "What's going on?"
"Show me," Keith said tightly.
Orb's Year 943
She knew Wilhelmina was still out there...
She needed something to do.
Orb's Year 944
"It will be nice to see the family again!" Keith agreed.
Fanny glanced towards Keith quickly and saw him shrug. "Sure," she said cautiously. "I think that should be fine. Would you like me to stay with you?"
"Oh no! I mean, I wouldn't want to keep you from Bastian's Orb's Year Celebration!" Gretel said quickly.
A somber group returned from the Baker household. In the middle of Bastian's celebration, Fancy's husband Sebastian had collapsed to the ground, shocking everyone around him. Fancy had fallen to the ground, wailing for her husband.
Keith put his arm around his wife. "I know, love. It caught everyone by surprise. Do you think Fancy will be okay?"
"I don't know how she could be," Fanny said. "I don't know what I would do if I lost you!"
Keith pulled her into his arms tightly.
Gretel turned to find her mama. "Oh, I'm so sorry, mama!" she said tearfully. She had fond memories of her doting Uncle Sebastian. "How is Gene and Gena?"
"Gene is helping her mother and Gena slipped out in the middle of the night. It's just a shame Bastian will never know his father!" Fanny wiped a tear from her eye. "Do you need anything before I go up to sleep?"
"Oh no, mama. I'm probably just going to head to bed," Gretel said softly.