In a modest home of suburban Pennsylvania, 22-year-old Hansel and Gretel lived with their parents. It was 1 a.m. when they returned home from their friend Rodney’s birthday party one Saturday. Upstairs, when they passed the master bedroom, Hansel and Gretel heard their parents’ voices.
“We’ve gotta get them outta here, Marta. They’re 22 years old, and college grads or not, it’s time they moved out. Don’t you think so?” said their father behind the closed door.
“Ah, I guess so,” mumbled their mother.
“It’s time, Marta. They gotta learn to live on their own.”
“I have been wanting to turn Gretel’s room into a craft studio…”
Gretel gasped. “A craft studio? Did you hear that Hansel? A craft studio. I don’t even know what that is.” The siblings stepped away from the door.
“Gretel, if they want to kick us out then we’re going to beat them to the chase,” whispered Hansel. “We leave at dawn!” he thrust his index finger in the air and retreated to his room.
Gretel followed him. “Not so fast, Hans. Where do you plan on moving in tomorrow at dawn?”
“We’ll stay at Rod and Rich’s place.”
“Rod and Rich’s place is a junkyard.”
“It’s not that bad,” Hansel said.
“No, they actually set up camp at the junkyard. The one on Red Street. The place we were at tonight was Mel’s.”
Hansel considered this then said, “We’ll figure it out, sis. All I know is we’re not letting mom and dad throw us out with the trash, so we’re leaving before the garbage man comes.”
“We’re gone at dawn!”
Gretel was too tired to protest, so she retired to her room.
As planned, Hansel and Gretel awoke before sunrise, packed their things, and left their mother and father snoring in their beds. They also left their phones behind to thwart their parents’ efforts to contact them.
The family’s car was laid up in the local auto shop and their runaway funds were too limited to afford a taxi, so they walked the 30 minutes into town. When they arrived, they were hungry. Hansel spotted a newly opened bakery on a nearby corner that boasted “The freshest 99-cent bagels around!” and they could not resist.
Inside, Hansel and Gretel ordered two top-quality poppy seed bagels. At the cash register, the siblings yelped simultaneously, “Aunt Molly?”
Their cashier was their Aunt Molly, who had told them she had abandoned accounting and moved back to Pennsylvania to help her friend with the bakery’s grand opening and more importantly, to pursue her passion for breads and pastries. They had not seen Aunt Molly in five years.
“Look at how much you two’ve grown! I could still just eat you up!” It was a week from Halloween and she wore a black witch’s hat that flopped when she bobbed her head.
“Why didn’t you tell us you were here?” ask Gretel.
“I just flew in last night, and I was going to drop by the house as a surprise. Speaking of, how’re your parents?”
“Disowned,” spat Hansel.
“They kicked us out because they thought we were too old to still be at home,” said Gretel.
“They did not,” Hansel interjected. “We left before they could toss us.”
“Well, sheesh. Do you have a place to stay?” asked Aunt Molly.
Hansel and Gretel shook their heads.
Aunt Molly slapped her hands on the counter with decisiveness. “Then you two are staying with me until you figure things out. It’s only me in a studio apartment, but we’ll make it work.”
Gretel cringed at the word ‘studio’ but exclaimed, “Thanks Aunt Molly! Are you sure?”
“As sure as I am that these bagels are 99 cents!” Gretel saw that they came to $1.04 with tax, but smiled.
That night in the apartment, Aunt Molly brought home a pizza and a deck of cards. After a satisfying dinner and a riveting round of Go Fish, the siblings said it had been a long day and suggested they go to bed. Aunt Molly, thoroughly enjoying the game, insisted they stay up a while longer for a few more rounds and for some dessert. Tempted by the assortment of tarts from the bakery that Aunt Molly pulled out of the fridge, Hansel and Gretel stayed.
Aunt Molly spoiled the siblings with a hot breakfast every morning and innutritious take-out dinner every night complete with dessert from the bakery. For the first few days, Hansel and Gretel enjoyed the frequent feasts and would use the time that Aunt Molly was at work to study. But after the fifth day of their stay, Aunt Molly started going into work later and later until she was in the apartment all day with the siblings, cooking by day, entertaining by night. Once she’d stuffed them with food, she’d follow Hansel and Gretel around, urging them to put down their books and engage in her favorite activities: marathon movie screenings in the living room, cards games with a minimum of ten rounds per sitting and musical theater trivia. A few times, Hansel and Gretel tried to sneak away to a coffeeshop or the library, but each time Aunt Molly, offended that they wanted to leave, would swoop in front of the door with a plate of treats and beckon them back inside.
It had been over a week, and Hansel and Gretel knew it was time to discuss their situation. They had to leave.
”Don’t you see?” said Hansel. “She’s fattening us up! At this rate, we’ll be so full of lemon bars and croissants, we won’t fit through the front door.”
“I know,” said Gretel. “We need a plan.”
Refusing to sulk back home to their parents, the siblings decided they would leave the apartment during one of Aunt Molly’s pastry runs. But since her apartment was only a block from the bakery, she would probably come looking for them when she found they were missing.
“Don’t worry,” Hansel said to his sister. “We’ll outrun her.”
“Not in the shape we’re in,” said Gretel. “Aunt Molly runs marathons, remember?”
“She does?” Hansel frowned. Then Gretel said they would have to lead her off track to give them some time. Hansel pondered this until he saw the two cinnamon scones on the plate in the center of the kitchen table. “I’ve got an idea,” he said.
Aunt Molly announced that night she would be going to the bakery the next day, as those two scones were the last of their baked goods supply. After she had gone to bed, the siblings packed their bags and Hansel stashed a scone in his backpack.
The next morning after Aunt Molly had left, they watched her through the window. When she turned the corner, Hansel and Gretel bolted for the door. On their way down the stairs, Hansel retrieved the stolen scone from his backpack and crumbled it in his hand.
”Hansel,” said Gretel. “Sometimes I don’t know how we came from the same womb. What in God’s name are you doing?”
Hansel explained his plan to leave crumbs down the stairs and along the sidewalk to leave a trail. Then they would run the other way to trick her.
“That was your idea? I mean, you’ve had some terrible ideas, Hans. Really bad ideas. But this…” She gestured to her brother, now stooping outside the apartment, half crumbled scone in hand. “This takes the cake.”
Hansel said, “Really? I thought it was pretty good.”
“I’ve got to stop trusting you like this. Anyway, it’ll have to be good enough because we’ve gotta move.” She yanked her brother up and the two flew down the street with their bulging backpacks and duffel bags and Hansel trailing along throwing the rest of the crumbs behind him like a frantic flower girl.
They hadn’t even reached the end of the block when the siblings accidentally barreled into two passersby on the street.
“Excuse us,” started Gretel, until she saw that the road block was their parents.
Their mother gasped, “There you two are!” She and their father flung their arms around their children. Hansel and Gretel wriggled out of the embrace.
“What’re you two doing here?” Hansel sneered.
“Looking for you of course!” said their father. “We’ve looked up down and sideways for you kids. All you left us were your phones, so we couldn’t call you guys.”
“That was the point,” said Gretel tersely.
“Kids, what’s wrong?” their mother said. “We were so worried. We thought you’d be thrilled when we found you.”
“Maybe we would be,” said Gretel, “if we had a room to come back to.”
Their mother was puzzled, so Hansel chimed in, “Two words mom: craft studio. Gretel’s been bitter about it since we decided to leave before you two threw us out.”
Their mother apologized profusely but Hansel and Gretel were unmoved.
“Kids,” their father said. “To be honest, we need you guys to come home. It hasn’t been the same without you two around. Your mom and I...well we had no one to cook for anymore. None of the usual skittin’ and laughin’ coming from the dining room where our two future lawyers should be studying.”
Their mother sniffled. “It’s true! We miss you so much! No craft studio could make me happier than the company of my two babies.”
Hansel and Gretel reveled in the power they suddenly had over their parents. They hinted a few times that they could find a cheap apartment or move in with a friend, but when their parents were nearly begging on their knees, they finally agreed to come home. But on two conditions.
“Mine is obvious,” said Gretel.
“And second,” said Hansel, “no pastries for the next few weeks. Gretel and I have some weight to lose.”
Hansel was prepared to explain as they began to walk to their car parked at the curb, but when Aunt Molly suddenly dashed up the street, there was no time.
“Molly?” exclaimed their parents.
“Hurry!” Gretel yelled. “Get in!”
The siblings and their confused parents piled into the vehicle. As they sped away, Aunt Molly galloped behind. “Wait! Kids!” she hollered. “I have baklava! And I was thinking Texas Hold ‘Em tonight!”
As they rounded a corner, Aunt Molly was still running, waving a bag of baked goods above her head.
“Right,” said Hansel. “About those pastries…”