THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE CAFÉ By Melissa Miles

She was running, leaping, almost dancing. She was so excited, holding
the door handle wrapped in her over- skirt.

Her house, her marvellous house was finished. The bakers had told her
that morning when they had, with great ceremony, given her the final
piece, the door handle. It was made of icing and painted gold.

She was so happy, running down the tow path by the river.

When she got to the clearing where her house stood, she stopped, her
face fell, the door handle dropped from her skirts, and she slowly
walked to the great gaping hole in the side of her beautiful
ginger-bread house.

Not again!

The tears coursed down her cheeks as she sank to the ground. This was
the third time her brand new house had been destroyed by the vermin.
She had done everything the magical house brochures had said to do.
She had tied herbs to the eaves to ward the creatures off, she had dug
a small moat around her sweet house, and she had placed a living
gargoyle on the eaves of the cake roof.

But to no avail, the vermin, the children, had been at it again.

The poor little witch gave herself up to her sobs.

She was a kindly witch, and her name was Beatrice, but she was a small
witch, who could never inhabit such a big name, so everyone called her
Bea.

Her beautiful gingerbread house had cost her everything. Every
enchanted spindle, every spare spell, every frog prince she could find
in the marshes. The very last of her spells had been spent on her
marvellous door handle, but the door stood ajar and was half eaten,
the west wall had been shattered and nibbled, the spun sugar windows
devoured.

Bea had a very soft heart. This was the third iteration of her house,
the insurance had covered two rebuilds, but she was certain they
wouldn’t cover another, not unless she was willing to trap the vermin.

She hated the idea, not only was she soft hearted, but she was a
little afraid of children, they had nasty sharp teeth and their skin
felt cold, almost slimy to the touch.

But, she knew she was going to have to do it.

Bea made her way back to the main witch hall in her little town, where
any magical inhabitant could call a meeting by ringing the large bell
in the yard.

It was late afternoon by the time the hall was filled. There were
bakers and trolls, leprechauns, fairies, witches, and a few unicorns
at the very back of the hall.

“I’m sorry to call you all here,” said Bea, in a trembling voice, “but
the vermin have destroyed my house again.”

An uproar ensued. Bea was a popular little hedge witch, supplying
humans with healing potions and harmless little spells to redirect
insects from their gardens, and birds from their fields.

“I’m going to have to start a trap and release program. Can anyone help me?”

Most of the magical folk muttered and nodded and agreed to help, even
the unicorns who were very frightened, agreed to carry the cages to
and from the release site.

“Let’s begin in a week’s time,” smiled Bea, much heartened by her
community’s willingness to help.

Over the next week Bea spent a great deal of time in the village
library, deciding on a salubrious site to release the creatures, the
children, so they could survive in the wild.

She decided on a beautiful valley with a small lake and trees. After
that, it was only a matter of baiting the traps with sweet things the
bakers donated.

For three consecutive nights the magical folk laboured, trapping the
noisey and aggressive creatures.

One of the bakers wiped the sweat from his forehead, and suggested it
would be easier to poison them.

“I don’t want to hurt them,” said Bea.

The baker nodded, and baited another trap.

On the fourth night, there were no vermin to be found. Bea was so
happy she hugged all her friends, and gave the unicorns a sugar cube
each.

The helpful group departed, the unicorns bearing the empty traps back
to the town.

Bea sank to the ground in the moonlight next to her damaged house. She
stroked its gingerbread walls.
“We will fix you up again,” she whispered to the house, and fell into
a sound sleep.

She was woken an hour later by a group of humans, carrying torches and
pitchforks, baring their sharp teeth, and yelling obscenities at her,
calling her wicked and accusing her of eating children.

 Their children.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t hurt them, so I didn’t think that you
would mind. They’re noisy and dirty and…feral.”
The humans shook their weapons in her face and tied her up with ropes.
“They were ours, and we loved them,” answered the head man.

“But why didn’t you tame them down and train them?” Bea was genuinely
bewildered and very frightened.

The humans didn’t answer, knowing in their hearts that she was right,
made them angrier still.
They dragged poor little Bea to their village and tied her to a stake.
“We’re going to burn you up and demolish your house.”
Their faces were contorted with anger and their voices rang in her
ears. She was very, very, frightened.

Witches don’t die, but they can suffer immensely from pain, and
burning is terribly painful.

The townsfolk cheered when she screamed and waited until she was
nothing but a charred lump in the hot ashes, then they went home to
bed, pleased with themselves and their justice.

In the grey light of morning the gentle unicorns nosed in the cooled
remains of the fire, and delicately pawed the blackened lump to the
dew damp grass, as they disappeared into the morning mist, the other
witches came and carefully rolled little Beatrice in a soft blanket
and bore her away.

The rebirth of a witch so horribly tortured is equally painful, and
can take a very long time.

Today, down a tow path by a river, there stands, in the centre of a
city that has developed around it, a wonderful café. It is called ‘The
Gingerbread House Café’ and specialises in wonderful coffee and boasts
the most marvellous patisserie. Aged bakers can be seen in the back,
assembling their creations on trays.
The proprietress is called Bea. She is a small woman, and her only
oddity is that she never serves the  hot drinks, only the cold.

There is a small note on the counter that reads,
Please keep children under effective control.

Today was the first day of the summer vacation, and two families had
come in. Their children ran riot in her café, screaming and tearing
around.
Bea asked the parents nicely to reign their children in, but the
parents spoke rudely to her, and smiled indulgently at their running
progeny.

Bea only smiled back and suggested some nice cake- of -the -house, on
the house of course, some slices of delectable gingerbread might
settle them down?

The parents greedily accepted.

Bea glanced back at her bakers. They nodded and iced the pieces of
gingerbread with their special concoction.

The children gobbled up their free GingerBread Cake and then sagged
next to their parents.
The parents were happy to have gotten something for free, and doubly
happy their children were quiet, that had, after all, been the point
of coming to the famous café.
As they left they remarked to each other how nice and kind the proprietress was.

One by one, at different times and for different reasons, the children
died. The only thing in common was that they all left their lives with
a raging fever, they just seemed to be burning up.

The Gingerbread House Café has become famous throughout the world, not
only for its marvellous cakes and pastries, its delectable
confections, its perfect coffee, and its extraordinary door knob made
of icing… but for its remarkable, peaceful and tranquil ambience.

The End

About the Author: Melissa was born in the USA, but presently resides in New Zealand. She has been many things, actor, teacher, horse-rescuer, film-maker. She is now focusing on writing. She holds an MFA (with distinction) from Canterbury University.

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