Extra Credit

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Qualified

"This is nuts," Haden said, slouching onto the bed, "What exactly was the assignment again?"
 
"Interview someone you believe has suffered an injustice."
 
Haden snorted, "and this is who you came up with? An old white lady who killed two kids?"
 
"She was never convicted."
 
"People said she ate those kids Gret. That's why they couldn't convict her, they never found the bodies."
 
Gretta closed her bag, sighing, "Look, you can come with me, or you can stay. No one ever gave her a real interview, no one ever believed her side of the story in court. All I'm going to do is ask her a few questions and we'll be done with it. And she didn't eat anyone Haden. That's insane."
 
Haden slid off the bed, picking up his jacket and keys as he followed Gretta out the door, "Of course I'm coming; if mom finds out you went alone, she'll kill me. I can't believe this is just for extra credit."
 
There was no road to the old woman's cottage, just a tangled and narrow path that wound through the old growth forest at the edge of town. The cottage sagged in a state of dramatic disrepair. Vines crawled up its sides, sloughing off the delicate pastel paint. What colors remained were necrotic, yellows and greens and blues tinted with decay. A thin line of smoke twisted from the chimney.
 
"I'm giving you half an hour," he hissed to Gretta as she knocked on the door. Shuffling footsteps responded, and the door creaked open. She wasn't really helping her cause, looking like she did, Haden thought. Textbook witch. There was even a little wart on the end of her nose. She ushered them in.
 
"I'm surprised, young lady", the old woman said, shutting the door, locking it, "that someone would let you interview me for school."
 
Gretta blushed, "Well, we didn't have to say who the essay was going to be about."
 
"Ah", she said, turning her back to them and walking into her kitchen, "I see."
 
"Not that I think they wouldn't have let me write about you," Greta assured her, following her into the kitchen and waving Haden along.
 
"Of course dear." She motioned to an old but clean wooden table upon which sat a pot of tea, two mugs, and a plate of gingerbread biscuits. They sat, each taking a piece of gingerbread. The old woman poured the tea.
 
Gretta brought out her notebook, "I wanted to ask you about the children first, if that's ok. About how you met them. You never denied knowing them."
 
"Of course not. Darling things, I saw them all the time playing in the woods. I'm not sure their parents took very good care of them. They used to come play in my yard, sometimes even in the house. The house was much nicer then. Painted like a fairy tale."
 
"And the day they went missing, you were where? Everything I read said you didn't have an alibi."
 
The old woman shook her head, raising her thin shoulders in a shrug, "That's because I was home alone. I didn't have anyone to vouch for me, no husband, no children of my own. I was here, making gingerbread that day. This very same recipe I made for you, actually. I usually gave the children food when I saw them. The boy especially was so very thin."
 
Gretta gave an understanding nod, "And do you have your own theory about what happened to them?"
 
The old woman sighed, "I think they just got lost in the woods. They were never very careful. Never concerned about finding their way back home. I think they were just so small, and the woods were so big. I think that's what happened." Gretta nodded again, writing all this down as she finished off her third biscuit and drained her teacup. The old woman refilled it, topping off Haden's as well. The room was becoming very warm.
 
"And after, the trial, what did..." Gretta lost her words for a moment, shook her head, took another sip of tea, "What did you do then?" The old woman was making a lot of eye contact now, the tip of her tongue running slowly over her lower lip. She was drumming her fingers on side of the teapot.
 
"Gretta", Haden said, sounding too far away, "I think we should go. I think we need to g-" Haden slid from his chair, crumpling to the floor. Gretta gripped the edge of the table, her vision swirling. She looked up at the old woman, who was holding the plate of biscuits and smiling.
 
"Would you like another, my dear? You're so very thin."

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Image of Abigail Haworth
Abigail Haworth · ago
I absolutely loved this! So creepy!
Image of Abigail Haworth
Abigail Haworth · ago
"Vines crawled up its sides, sloughing off the delicate pastel paint. What colors remained were necrotic, yellows and greens and blues tinted with decay. A thin line of smoke twisted from the chimney."

This is beautiful

Image of Abigail Haworth
Abigail Haworth · ago
And it kept you guessing until the end, blending realism and fiction! This has got to be one of my favorites