He never was my brother
I was about 5 years old when Hansel and his mother came to live with us. Eltike, my step-mother was a hard woman, with a striking handsome face, looks which she most definitely passed on to her only child. There was little else of him that reminded me of her.
Even from a very young age, I could feel a burning attraction to this man. He never was my brother, not in my eyes, but an object of lust and desire. I craved any chance to be alone with him, and to melt away in his forest green eyes.
As could sometimes be the case, during those post war years, the family began to struggle, and so it was one day decided that we should be released from the household and out to fend for ourselves. People in later years would see this as cruel, but I never saw it as a bad thing. Finally, I had the chance to be with him all the time, without Their watchful eyes casting their aspersions on every yearning glance I threw his way.
He was a very stoic character, and was prone to mood swings and rages when things didn’t go his way. But in many ways, this was my favourite of his characteristics – his passion. And, of course, I relished in my ability to calm him, and make him smile that delicious awkward grin that was so trademark Hans. I felt so empowered and in control that it was only me who could have this influence on him, and assumed that it was because he was as captivated by me as I was him.
We set up a home in the city. I went to school and Hans went out to work. He started by helping the old man, who ran the fish stall on the market by the river. He’d work ludicrous hours from dawn until dusk, gutting fish and helping the ladies carry them to their carriages. Then he would return reeking of fish, yet curiously satisfied.
We hit harsh times at one stage, when the old man was robbed and blamed Hansel – but I can honestly say this was never presented as much of a problem to me and, typically, I relished spending more time in his company.
It was during this time that we discovered “The Gingerbread House”. It stood in a woody thicket on the south banks of the river. The house taunted us daily with its hubbub of visitors and during a particularly frugal time, we ventured into the grounds that seemed to be teeming with delicious treats for us to fill our aching bellies with.
It had recently rained, and there were blackberries on the bushes. Like greedy birds, my Hans and I had our fill of delectable fruits, fungus from the ground and we lay under the stars, clutching our bellies, unable to believe our good fortune.
That night, the sky was illuminated in a variety of iridescent colours, and the stars all seemed to be dancing and moving gently within the sky. The amazing house was made from gingerbread, and the windows sugar syrup. The roof tiles were of iced shortbread and if we could just get closer, and break off a tiny piece, then surely it could go undetected?
It certainly was for an indistinguishable amount of time, but just as we collapsed giggling hysterically by the doorstep, an old lady opened the chocolate coated door and invited us into the house for sweet tea. She had an air of anxiety about her, which, again served only to induce uncontrollable laughter in the two of us. Her skin was green and bubbly and resembled some sort of reptile, and she wore a long black gown.
The woman was talking to us, but her utterances were unclear – I think she was trying to ascertain how she had ended up with two clearly undernourished and somewhat dizzy children in her front room. Of course, it is possible she was saying any number of other things, but to this day the main thing I remember was her distinctive laugh, and the way the smoke would curl up the chimney from her perpetually boiling pan upon the fire.
Long after the comets and stars and eternal spirals dwindled from the undulating sky, I slept the longest sleep I can remember and awoke back in the bedroom in my Father’s home. Eltike was nowhere to be seen and the house was once again filled with gaiety and happiness.
It was a truly magical night in my eyes, and one that I have never forgotten, though over the years I have listened to many a distorted version of the events that took place. I have a private chuckle when I remember the truth of the Hansel and Gretel story!
An alternative representation of a traditional fairy story.