The little old widow was horrified when she realised what she had done.
Throughout her life she had fought off allegations of witch-hood. She was not a witch – what had she ever done to make people think that she was? Her hair was wild and wiry, she had a hooked nose, and a wart on her chin, but those things were hardly her fault, simply accidents of nature and genetics. Mind you, she had never had children, and that in itself was probably enough to set tongues wagging. Despite the heavy-handed attentions and derision of her husband she had utterly failed to conceive throughout their long married life. Her husband was a crude, thickset man who taunted her endlessly about her looks, her inefficiency in household maintenance, her inability to keep him satisfied. And with this in mind, she held her tongue against the rumours of his visits to the whorehouse in the village because at least that meant his cruelty was for a time deflected elsewhere (nonetheless she felt a morsel of guilt for the relief she felt in allowing other women to suffer in her place).
But when one night the old man’s breath jolted and stopped mid-snore, and her own life continued, the widow still felt an emptiness in addition to the blessed release she had been granted. Because although it would have been cruelty to subject a child to the jibes and violence of this man, now she had nothing but a drafty,rattling home and fearful neighbours for company. If only she had had a child, maybe she would not have felt so lonely as a widow. Afterwards, she always wondered had her soul not yearned so strongly for the child she never had, perhaps the horrid gingerbread boy would never have sprung to life. Because, unfortunately, although she had denied it all her life, there was a power within the widow’s brittle bones…
TO BE CONTINUED
See Enchanted Times #3 (coming soon!) for the full story