I don’t remember , I said. Its been a while. Must have been ages ago. I paused and shook my head to jog back old memories. The memories which I had buried over time. Whose life doesn’t have a phase of unpleasantness. Mine , I’d like to think that it was the darkest phase of mine life. It’s not fair. It’s not right. No child should ever learn that it’s parents don’t love it at all. That was cold and cruel. That hurt the most.
Things were not always bad. I bet every sad and tragic tale starts on that reminiscent note. Things were not always bad. We were no exception to the stereotyping of our fate. By we, I mean my sister and I. We were a happy family. Telly, me, dad and mom. Happy family indeed. You should have seen telly when she was a kid. She looked like a doll. She’d prance about the house. Mom would never tire from chasing her down every day. I’d always sit by a quiet corner and gleefully watch them running around the household.
I guess good things are never meant to last. Mom, well. Lets just say god was kind to her. She didn’t suffer much. Two days of fever. And a she was welcomed into the gates of heaven. She was the soul of our family. With her in the heaven up there, hell was set loose in our lives. Dad brooded for a while and then remarried. New mother, strike that. I don’t think she even deserves to be addressed as a mother. The new lady was a witch in comparison. After she came, the first few months she was nice. Slowly, as she got more assertive around the house, I saw Telly losing her smile. She was exceptionally hard on Telly. She had a problem with everything that Telly could do.
I didn’t mind being treated like a beast of burden. I was a big boy. I could stomach it. I longed for my mother a lot, but that was all there was to it. It didn’t break me down. It didn’t break my spirit. I had to stay strong for Telly’s sake. I endured. Things got from bad to worse. One night, the callousness had read its peak. I overhead her poisoning dad’s ears. Take them and leave them estranged, she had whispered in the coldness of the dark. Her wicked voice carried effortlessly in the stillness of the night.
No surprises there. Next morning , she was sweet. Packed us a pretty picnic basket and dad told us that he’d take us to the town. He wanted to take us along to the town to let us watch him sell our cows. Yeah right, I secretly smiled at calling his filthy bluff. The audacity!! he called us cows. That was the last straw. Obviously, his love for us evaporated without a trace.
We had no choice. We accompanied our father. I gripped Telly’s hand tightly. She was the last remaining sunshine of my life. I could lose everything else and still make my peace with it. I couldn’t lose her. I wouldn’t lose her. Come what may, I decided. Our journey took us through the dark forest. Even under the bright shining sun, the forest looked gloomy and dark. The dampness of the forest strained our lungs.
I knew what all of this meant. Dad’s plan was to ditch us in this forest. To hell with it. I wanted to break away from him with my dignity intact. I promised myself to not cry or plead with him to change his mind. He had made his choice last night. I had made my choice too. Telly and I were now orphans. We were left to fend for our own in this cruel world. So be it, I assured myself. I picked my moment right. When dad was distracted by the cows, I whisked Telly away and we both disappeared.
Things hit south really fast after that. I guess we all know the tale of the witch from the gingerbread house. She was kind, fattened me up and tried to cook me in. Telly was sweet. She rescued me. With the ordeal behind us, with nowhere else to go. Telly and I made her house our own. We’ve been there ever since. We were soon forgotten in our village. Nobody came looking. Nobody cared. It was what it was. We pulled through.
This one time, i think it was a week after we got rid of the witch, I left telly behind and I head home. I desperately hoped that our dad would have been heartbroken or changed his mind because he missed us. I was foolish to hope. I sneaked up to our house. There I saw the sight that I’ve never forgotten. A sight that would never earn my forgiveness. I saw my dad and that witch smiling and laughing. There was not a tinge of sadness looming under the roof.
I walked back to Telly. The man I once called my dad was now dead to me.
What? came a surprised voice. The old man who sat patiently listing to my story suddenly burst into life. Are you Hansel ? Johan’s kid? This Telly that you kept talking about, your sister. Is her name Gretel?
Yeah, so? I retorted
You stupid , stupid imbecile. Childish back then who made the most foolish decision assuming that he was an adult in a man’s world. Adult today and still making childish claims. I would kill you myself, if not for the memory of your departed father!
Johan was heartbroken. So was Berta, the lady you so lovingly called a witch! I remember that day. A week had passed since you two went missing. We were afraid of the witch brining your harm. Two kids surviving in the forest was unheard of. We scanned through the forest but we couldn’t find you.
A week after our exhaustive search, we had gathered around in your house. Your parents were heart broken. They had not eaten proper in days. They lost their will to live. That day was a day to remember. Your father was telling us about how adorable you two were when your first mother was alive. He spoke of the laughter that was always heard in the house. He smiled at how little Gretel would keep the mother engaged through the day.
You stupid arrogant lad. Berta had asked Johan to sell off the cows. Your dad said that cows starved by famine were a hard sell. nobody would bother buying them. She said if that was the case, they both were better off setting them loose in the forest. You heard them wrong and jumped to conclusions!
Color left Hansel’s face.
Why do we ache to open up and talk. Why do we take comforts to let our assumptions take flight. Why do we find it easier to let misery rule us than making efforts to make things better?