Friday, March 28, 2014

Cook, Orb's Year 941-944

 

Orb's Year 941
"So, you couldn't make it out there in the world, could you?  You have to come running home!" Wilhelmina Cook snapped at the step-son she had raise, Keith Cook. "Well, just like when you were young, I have rules, young man that I expect you and your brood to follow!"
"Yes, step-mother," Keith said.  His papa, Hans, had married Wilhelmina when he was 14-years old.  Unfortunately, soon after, his papa had started wasting away.  Wilhelmina, a good 15-years younger than Hans, had tried her best to care for him, but it had not been enough.  Hans had died a little less than a year after marrying his young wife.  Soon after, Keith had met Fanny and within time, it just felt more comfortable to stay over at her house than his own...

But this was in rights his home... his heritage...
"Well, come in, come in! Don't leave the door open! I suppose you want me to make you breakfast!" she snorted with disdain.
"Keith? Are you sure we should have moved here?" Fanny asked quietly.  "She doesn't seem very happy to have us..."
"Don't worry, Fanny.  She'll adjust."

***

Wilhelmina watched as the children trudged to school and her useless step-son and his wife hurried to Taveryn's Kitchen.  A smile lit her face as she dashed off a note to her sister.
"We are in luck, sister," Wilhelmina said in a hushed voice.  "My step-son has returned home."

Claire scowled, "And why is that good luck? He'll be under-foot again..."
Wilhelmina interrupted her sister, "...And he brought his young son with him!"

Claire's eyes lit up.  "Will he suffice?"
Wilhelmina rubbed her hands together with glee.  "He will more than suffice!"
Once her sister left, Wilhelmina walked into her room..
...and opened her hidden door...
...and cackled with glee once more. She had things to prepare...

***


"Isn't it wonderful?" Gretel asked her cousin, Gene.  "It's so roomy and Hansel and I have our own room!"

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. 
"What is all this racket about?" Wilhelmina snapped, flinging open the door suddenly.

The girls froze and whirled to face Wilhelmina guiltily. 
"I'm sorry, Grandmama," Gretel said shakily as Gene slipped from the house.

"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!"
"I... I'm sorry gran... Oh!" Gretel cried, turning and running into her room and collapsing on her bed in tears.

***
"Oh dear, how was your day at school?" Wilhelmina asked when Hansel returned from school.  "Come give your Grandmama a hug!"

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.
"Oh goody!" Hansel cheered when he saw Grandmama's cherry pie on the table.  "I love cherries!"

"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.
Then all of a sudden, his stomach rebelled.  He stood up and covered his mouth. "Oh, Grandmama. I think I'm full..." he said.  Hansel grabbed his stomach.  "I think I'm going to be sick..."
"Nonsense!" Wilhelmina said, reaching out and feeling his waist.  Nice and cushy.  Perfect.  "Now be a good boy and finish your treat.  I worked all morning in the kitchen to make you that!"

"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.
"There now! That wasn't so difficult, was it?" Grandmama announced once he was finished.  When she grabbed the plate, she added, "Run along and go to bed now."
Everything was advancing according to plan, Wilhelmina thought with glee.  Soon...

 ***

"Do you think we should've come here?" Fanny asked quietly.  "Gretel seems so unhappy here."

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."
Some time later Wilhelmina crept into their room.
She mumbled a few words, waving her wand...

 ***

"Come on sleepy-head, it's time to get up for school," Gretel said, pushing on Hansel's shoulders.

"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..."
"Have you seen mama and papa this morning?" she asked Wilhelmina.  "Usually they wake us up in the morning. We almost overslept!"

"They're very sick, I'm afraid," Wilhelmina said with a clipped tone.

"Oh no!" Gretel said, starting to rise. "I must go check..."
"Sit down!" Wilhelmina snapped.  "There's no use getting everyone in the house sick!"

"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.
Wilhelmina watched the children go and rubbed her hands in anticipation.  Soon....

 ***

"Oh there you are, dear boy!" Wilhelmina said when the boy came home.

"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!
Hansel glanced up at his Grandmama.  Why was she acting so strangely today?  Maybe it was because mama and papa were so sick...  "Is there anything else I can help you with, Grandmama?" he asked.

"No, my dear, but soon you will help me quite a bit!" she said with a cackle.
"Grandmama?" Hansel asked in fear when he saw her begin mutter under her breath and green sparks shot off the stick she was holding.  "What's going on?" he asked with a wobbly voice.

"Don't worry, dear.  It won't hurt in the least bit.. at least I don't think it will!" Wilhelmina laughed giddily.
"Hansel! No!" Gretel called out, distracting the evil witch.  When she'd showed up at Taveryn's Kitchen after school, Uncle Connor had looked at her and asked where her parents were.  It was then that she had the sinking feeling that something bad was happening.
Not knowing what else to do, Gretel grabbed the glass of water sitting nearby and threw it at Wilhelmina. She'd heard somewhere that witches could be thwarted with water..
"You ungrateful, willful child!" Wilhelmina hissed as she slowly sank to her knees.  "Do you know what you've done?"
Gretel stared down at her Grandmama as she lay sprawled on the floor.

"Is she... is she dead, Gretel?" Hansel asked softly. 
"Blessed Orb... Blessed Orb..." Gretel softly keened as she dropped down by Wilhelmina's prone body.  She cautiously placed her fingers on her neck, worried that at any minute the witch would bolt upright and grab her.

Frowning, she glanced up at her brother. "I think she's dead..." she whispered.
"What do we do now?" Hansel asked nervously as Gretel stood up.

"Mama!" Gretel cried out in horror.
The children raced up the stairs.
Hansel hesitated at the doorway as Gretel hurried over to her parents. "Are they..." Hansel couldn't bring himself to ask the question.

"I don't know," Gretel admitted, reaching out to grasp her mother's hand. "Mama?" she whispered softly, shaking her mother.
Relief washed over the children as their parents started to sit up.
"They're okay!" Hansel cried out, pulling Gretel in for a hug.  "They're okay!"

"What are you talking about?" Fanny asked, feeling weak.  "What's going on?"
Gretel and Hansel spoke over each other as they told their parents about what had happened.

"Show me," Keith said tightly.

***

"I don't understand..." Gretel said quietly...
"...she was right here when we left..."

***

"Well, I've looked all through the house and I haven't seen any sign of her," Keith said.  "I think it's probably time to get to sleep."
It would be awhile before Gretel would feel safe enough to fall asleep without a struggle...

 Orb's Year 943
"She's not sleeping, Keith. I don't know what else to do for her.  She's scared Wilhelmina will come back, like some sort of boogey-man."
Keith shook his head.  "She just needs time, Fanny.  She'll come to realize that it's just a childish fear."

 ***

Gretel was jealous of how easily Hansel was able to drift off to sleep.  He was young enough that he didn't fully understand exactly what Wilhelmina had set in motion.  If Gretel hadn't returned when she did, she had a sinking feeling that she would've returned home to find her entire family dead.
And she didn't care what everyone else said.

She knew Wilhelmina was still out there...

***

The witching hours were the hardest for Gretel to stand.  Little creaks and moans had her glancing behind her at every turn.  And as her eyes twitched to close, Gretel would fight it tooth and nail.

She needed something to do.
She didn't read, but maybe she could find a book that had pictures in it...
Gretel looked at the covers of the books and tried to decide what she should read...
"This one looks pretty," she said, pulling the book from it's slot...
She hurried from the room, feeling unnerved, almost as if Wilhelmina could see her...
 She flipped through the pages, not really seeing anything interesting.
She returned back to the room and grabbed another book.  But, this one was stuck.  She pulled on it harder and...
 The wall began to open...
She gasped as she peered into the hidden room...
She'd found Wilhelmina's lair - proof that the cruel woman was a witch.
Along the wall a line of strange objects were lined up. 
She picked up the glowing object and then set it down.  It almost felt as though it was pulsing with energy.
A book stand held a book with strange pictures in it...
I wish I could read! she cursed.  Nothing in the book would help her until she could read!
Feeling unnerved, she hurried from the hidden room and breathed deeply. 
Much later, she sat staring into the fire as an idea started to take shape...

 Orb's Year 944

"Oh, I can't wait to go over to Fancy's! Little Bastian is having his birthday party tonight!" Fanny said excitedly.  "It's been some time since we've had a wee little baby in the house!"


"It will be nice to see the family again!" Keith agreed.
"Do you mind if I stay home, mama?" Gretel asked. "I'm not feeling very well," she smoothly lied.

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.
Besides, she had serious work ahead of her, Gretel thought some time later.  She studied the children's primer and practiced forming the same letters that were shown in the book.

***

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. 
"It's just so sad," Fanny cried.  "To lose him like that."

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.

***
"...And then Uncle Sebastian just dropped to the ground! He died right there!" Hansel told his sister.  "You sure missed it!"
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.

***

"...And she said that she'd be going to sleep... on her own!" Fanny said with amazement.  "First, she stayed home alone without being scared and now she's gone to sleep on her own! I think she's really getting better!"
"I told you... she just needed time to realize it was childish fears," Keith said encouragingly.  "It was never anything to worry your head over."

 ***

Gretel laid in the bed with a half-smile on her face.  Soon....

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