One day, two women discovered each other at the local market. They both reached for the same fig; their fingers touched, their eyes met.
A few days later they happened to bump into each other again. This time, they spoke as they made their ways about the market, side by side.
They conversed of very little, and of everything. Anne told Jane of her love of cooking, baking and confecting. Jane told Anne of her love of eating, and described the sculptures she made.
Thus their relationship began to grow, then burgeoned as they met more frequently. They took walks across fields and through woods. They ate – or, mainly, Jane ate – Anne’s exquisite gastronomic creations. They sat and looked out to sea together. And soon, they kissed together.
Both Anne and Jane lived alone, and quietly, in houses vacated by their parents on death. The village had long recognised that neither took an interest in men, but a blind eye had been turned. Their interest in one another, once recognised, however, could not be similarly endured.
When it became clear their love for one another was quickly outgrowing the ability of local minds to understand and accept it, Anne and Jane decided to leave. Not wanting to suffer at the lips of another community, they resolved to disappear, quietly, into the forest.
When they finally did, and Anne saw the cottage Jane had built for them, she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so she did both. It sat in a beautiful clearing and appeared, for all the world, to be made of bread and cakes, an homage to Anne’s culinary prowess.
There they lived for many years, and their relationship passed through many stages, as relationships do, so I shall not say they were always happy, but they never parted. Unfortunately, one aspect which never altered was Jane’s love for the wonderful foods Anne created, and Anne’s eagerness to .
One day, as she finished a third helping of strudel, Jane felt a great pain in her arm. The pain crept stealthily up and along it before snatching tightly across her chest. She couldn’t breathe. Anne looked with horror into her lover’s eyes, paralysed with fear as Jane was with pain.
Anne, with much labour and shedding of tears, buried Jane in the forest. Then she settled down to a quiet and lonely life.
Several years later, as she was removing a pie from the oven, Anne heard scraping and splintering sounds from outside the cottage. Peering out of a window, she saw a small boy, fingers bleeding, scratching out pieces of the building and delivering them to his mouth.
Gasping, she ran outside to find not one but two children, the girl replicating the actions of her companion. They were emaciated, their lips dry and cracked, their eyes glazed. Anne had never seen such hunger.
She ushered the children inside, sat them at the table and, having very little if any knowledge of how to approach starvation, served each with a large portion of pie swimming in cream. This was soon devoured, and she followed it up with tasty treat after tasty treat.
When the children’s heads began to sag perilously close to pools of custard and jam, Anne scooped them up and tucked them into her bed. She had little experience of children and found herself anxious for their safety; local legend spoke of a crossdressing wolf. So she surrounded the bed with some old picket fencing to protect them, and kept vigil as they slept.
The children were still asleep when Anne woke the next morning, so she tiptoed into the kitchen and lit her enormous stove, ready for a hearty breakfast. As she prepared eggs, bacon, bread and honey, she wondered where the children came from, resolving, once they had regained their strength, to accompany them to the nearest village in search of the adults who must surely be frantically searching for them.
Engrossed as she was, she didn’t hear the children behind her until the last second. When she turned, her back to the open stove, to greet them with a smile, two sets of wild eyes and grubby little hands bore down upon her. Her look quickly changed to one of surprise and alarm as the children rushed at her, shrieking, ‘Witch!’.