The Price of Gingerbread
by Stephanie Carty
My brother Hansel went missing. Father frowned into whisky. His wife rubbed kohl down her cheeks before posting selfies on Facebook.
Hansel said he’d spied a shack with walls made from bottles of cherry vodka in the marshlands. He liked to get high on hope. He’d have made a great spaniel, yapping about on the daily walk as if it might be different one time, as if paths weren’t already mapped out to always end in the same place.
But a twin is only a twin with a twin.
Through the squelch of mud, I tracked his route. The shack was set back in some trees. Columns of cigarette packets created beams to hold the structure upright. I could have sprinkled those white sticks along the path I’d walked but what was the point when nobody would search for us? Glass bottles arched across the roof. Leeching out of the place was a scent far heavier than father’s shirts, woody and dark. I sniffed until the sky spun.
Lights blinked around the door in green and red. I dug my fingers into a crevice to ease out a mobile phone but didn’t know the passcode.
After that, it’s hazy. Hansel and I were back together yet hardly there at all. There were fiery drinks poured straight from the rafters, sherbet to rub on our gums, pastilles that turned day to night. We giggled like the toddlers we’d been before father’s eyes were glazed by grief.
We’re not alone here but let’s not spoil the tale. Let’s not sour the sweet with flashbacks. None of it matters: the strangers, the pressing, the pain. We have the house and the house has us.
My brother reaches out to squeeze my hand. Then we turn to the walls and gorge ourselves.
About the Author
Stephanie Carty is a writer, trainer and NHS consultant clinical psychologist in Staffordshire, UK. Her debut novella Three Sisters of Stone was published May 2018 with Ellipsis Zine and won Best Novella in the Saboteur Awards 2019. Her fiction has been shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Award, Aesthetica Creative Writing Award and the Bridport Prize. She was a winner in Bath Flash Fiction Award, June, 2019. She writes psychological thrillers and is represented by Sheila Crowley at Curtis Brown.