My Gingerbread Man

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    I’d always wanted a son. My husband lost in an accident many years ago, I never remarried and was unable to have a child of my own. I grew old and wrinkled alone, not a soul dared come near my cottage, once cute and quaint, it had become wild and overgrown over the years, as I was never very good at gardening. I had become frail and lonely, the only thing which brought me joy was baking. I’d spend days upon days baking- loves of bread, cakes, cookies, muffins, – pretending I had a gaggle of grandchildren, eager to try their Grannie’s treats. “Don’t touch, little ones, they’re hot!” I’d say to my empty kitchen once I’d gotten each batch out of the oven, and once they were cool, I’d have one bite and remember I had no one to share with and the piles of food only deepened my sorrow and loneliness.
    To rid myself of these heaps of delicious treats, at first, I’d hobble down to the market and offer them to the little boys and girls playing in the streets. But, much to my dismay, they’d all scream and shriek “Witch!” the moment they laid their innocent little eyes upon me. I do not possess any magical abilities, but they wouldn’t listen. After that, each day I’d throw my treats into the woods for all the little woodland creatures- at least someone could enjoy them.
    After that, I’d venture into my garden and pick a beautiful selection of flowers; vibrant blues, yellows, purples, reds, pinks- a whole rainbow of colour woven together to create the most stunning bouquets! Then I’d stroll down the village path and into the churchyard, where I’d sit beside my husband’s grave, gently place the flowers beside his tombstone and weep, expressing how much I missed him and how regretful I was that we could never conceive a child.
    Following years of this same routine, day in, day out, one day, something changed. I had made a batch of cupcakes and had wandered to the edge of the woods, as usual and began throwing pieces of the cakes into the woods, watching as the dainty bluebirds, precious bunny rabbits and timid deer alike crept silently from their homes to eat their daily treat. Suddenly, they scattered. Confused, I turned around. This never happened, had they heard some noise to which my old ears were deaf? I pondered, had I moved too hastily?
    “No, no, no,” a voice from the dense foliage spoke, answering my thoughts,
    “Whose there?” I questioned, slightly afraid,
    “Never mind who I am, these animals are my friends, my brothers and sisters here, and you have reliably fed them for years- your generosity has not gone unnoticed, and now, you shall be rewarded” as the voice finished, a small, velvet, purple bag was tossed at my feet.
    “What is this? What is the meaning of this?” I cried out into the trees, but the wind’s rustling through their leaves was the only reply.
    Cautiously, I bent down and picked up the bag, it had a white label sewn into it’s side with a dazzling golden thread. ‘Sugar’, it read. “How peculiar” I thought, “I admit, I have been feeding these animals but if they belonged to someone, they need only have come to my house and spoken to me as thanks! I appreciate the gesture, but I’ve plenty of sugar at home,”. Not wanting to seem rude, I tucked the bag into my apron pocket and threw the rest of the cake to the animals, who were slowly returning to the patch where they so often came to greet me. Habitually, I continued my day as normal and when I got home, overcome with exhaustion, I went straight to bed.
    The next morning, I awoke with a spring in my step- I’d had a wonderful dream, in which I had a beautiful daughter, who had blessed me with 3 grandsons. Refusing to let myself out of this dream world, I got dressed, adorned my apron and rushed downstairs to make my darling grandchildren some treats for being so sweet. I mixed some flour, butter and ginger in a big bowl, almost forgetting to add the sugar before remembering the strange bag from the day before. Convinced I must have dreamed the strange occurrence, I didn’t even think to check my apron pocket for the bag of sugar and added my usual sugar. When the dough had come together, I rolled it out, carefully on the table top and used a silver cutter to cut each individual biscuit. Once I had finished, I added raisin eyes, and buttons to each gingerbread man before dusting them with icing sugar. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the final man- one made with the offcuts of the rest, slightly smaller and rough around the edges- I ran out of icing sugar. I sighed and put my hands into my pocket. Then I felt it. “Of course!” I thought, “It wasn’t a dream at all!”. I gently pulled out the violet velvet bag and pulled it open. I was at once amazed by the dazzling sparkles which seemed to emanate from the sugar and sprinkled some of the fine powder onto the final gingerbread man “Whoever eats you is one lucky kid!” I said to the gingerbread man, picturing three pairs of tiny hands reaching up to be the first to eat the shining man. And with that, I put the tray in the oven and closed the door.
    Twenty minutes later, I heard the ring of my timer, and turned it off before opening the oven door and placing the tray on the side. I opened the kitchen door to the garden in order to let some air in to cool the biscuits quicker, before rushing back to the tray. “Don’t touch, little ones, they’re hot!”, I exclaimed in a motherly tone, reaching out to usher one of the small children away from the side. Of course, my hands fell straight through the child’s ghostly figure and I gasped in shock before sitting down at the kitchen table, my head in my hands and weeping.
    After a few minutes, I half-heartedly attempted to compose myself and walked back to the side, knowing that the gingerbread men would have cooled by now. Tears still blinding me, I reached for the shining gingerbread man and brought it to my mouth. Suddenly, it fell from my hand! Shocked, since I knew I hadn’t lost my grip, I looked down at the floor and bent over to pick up the gingerbread man, when it got to it’s feet. I couldn’t believe it! A live gingerbread man?! I looked at the others on the tray to check if they too were alive. No, still as statues. Presuming it had been some trick of my mind, I turned back to the spot where the gingerbread man had once been- only he wasn’t there anymore.
    I caught a glimpse of a small figure leaving the kitchen door and ran after it, shouting “Wait! Wait!”. Now, I know what you’re thinking, reader, surely, a fully grown human woman can easily catch up to a tiny little gingerbread boy, but you must remember, I am an old and frail woman, and this was a young and energetic gingerbread boy! I chased him down the village path, through the market, through the church, at which point he began to taunt me, “Run! Run! As fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!”. This made me smile, and that smile became a grin, which became a laugh- I’d done it, I had a child! A little boy to play with! A little boy to chase and look after! I was euphoric!
    We ran for what felt like hours, as he taunted me in his singsong little voice of an angel “Run! Run! As fast as you can! You can’t catch me! I’m the gingerbread man!”, until we came to the edge of the woods, “Stop!” I shouted, “It’s dangerous in there!” But he wouldn’t listen. So, I ran after him, through the woods, scattering all the little woodland creatures who eyed him up as though he were their next treat. Finally, we came to a river, and I let out a sigh of relief, “You can’t go in!”, I called, “You’ll go soggy!”. But then, a fox emerged from the woods, cunning and sly, mumbling to my child. I tried to run towards him to stop it, but, it all happened so fast…
    That day I vowed never to bake again. That day, I got home, I got into bed, stunned into a shocked silence. That day, my last glimmer hope gained, my only hope- gone. That day, today, I am writing this, for all to see, you must always be grateful for what you have and not dote on the past or what could have been. And now, I must fall into a blissful sleep, forever.

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