In the old times, magic was an unspeakable curse: rumours and secrets spread like wildfire. People grew suspicious of little things, like black cats that littered the streets. The word magic would provoke glares and hushes. In the idyllic village of Bayston Hill, this was no exception. Years previously, there had been an uprising in the village. All those suspected to be witches were cast out of the village, left to fend for themselves in the wild. Their homes had been torched, their existence removed. The village had been declared ‘clean’ again. However, in the dead of night a year later one Enchantress returned. Her heart was full of malice, her eyes dulled with the pain she had suffered. No one recognised her. Her name was Gothel; and she was as old as time itself. The old woman vowed to bring revenge’s cold hand down upon those who had pained her.
The village began to accept the seemingly fragile old woman as one of its own. No one knew the full extent of Gothel’s cruel true personality: tarnished by the atrocities she’d witnessed. She bided her time; wanting to make them feel the pain she’d felt. No one noticed her as the dark-haired, stern looking woman they’d banished all those years ago. However, the house she now owned seemed foreboding to the other villagers. The children would whisper about the dark, unruly house and the residents of the village whispered about it, but never asked Gothel about the noises villagers could hear in the night coming from her house. Gothel began to hide herself away, only coming out to lovingly cater for her plants. Her favourite was her Rapunzel plant- a beautiful, wispy thing that stood in a delicate pot against the side of her house.
However, one man knew of Gothel’s real identity. His name was Franz, and he lived next door to Gothel. His bedroom window overlooked her garden. Franz was young, and naïve. He was recently married to Rosa, a sweet young girl, and had recently become pregnant with Franz’s child. Tragedy struck when Rosa became ill: residing in her bed, staring into space, her fever increasing rapidly. Franz despaired, for he could not find a cure. One night, as Rosa moaned and writhed, Franz nervously tried to cool his wife’s temperature. Her soft hand tightened against his wrist, and her scratchy voice said the first thing in days. “Save my baby,” she said, her voice hoarse. Her eyes shone with tears that reflected in the candle light. Franz nodded, barely keeping himself together. All the healers in the village had turned him away, telling Franz morosely there was nothing they could do. Eventually, Rosa fell into a deep sleep, her hand firmly on her swollen belly. Sleep eluded Franz, as he looked at the dying woman he loved, pacing his bedroom up and down as he tried to find a solution. He had nothing. Franz cried out in frustration, beating his fist against the wooden floor of the bedroom. In his despair, he did not hear Gothel opening her door and slipping out into her garden, wanting to tend to her plants. Franz sighed and flopped down onto his bed; raking his hand through his unruly blonde locks. He caught Rosa’s hand, and encased it in his cool ones.
Franz heard hushed whispers coming out from outside, as he realized he had not shut the window. The cool breeze seemed to tease him. Franz went to shut the window, when he saw Gothel hunched over her Rapunzel plant. Curious as to what the old woman was doing in the middle of the night, he watched her for a few seconds and was about to turn away when he saw a spark of blinding pink light coming from Gothel. Gaping, he watched again as Gothel whispered a hushed incarnation and a beautiful blue light flew out her fingertip and surrounded the plant: illuminating it and seeming to add life to the already astonishing flower.
Franz knew about the dark magic. He knew he was supposed to report it to the officials, who would sort it out. He could barely believe Gothel, the innocent old woman. The magic was evil, he’d been told. He must protect the village and report her. But he found his feet betraying him as he ran out into the street and pounded on Gothel’s door, breathless, his mind still racing.
He tried to formulate a plan in his mind, but his head was aching with pain and he was so tired. Hope turned to desperation, as Gothel didn’t answer the door for minutes, keeping Franz on edge. Eventually, Franz heard movement inside the house and saw the shadow under the door of Gothel-standing outside, waiting for Franz to leave. “Please,” Franz begged; his voice breaking.
Gothel opened the door a fraction, eyeing Franz suspiciously. Franz could see past her, into the darkened house with all the doors shut and no light. Gothel was wearing the clock she always donned: drew tightly around her paper white skin so her hair was not visible. Her silver eyes seemed colder in the darkness. “I-I saw you,” Franz said, trying to sound like he could help her. Gothel’s eyes widened, trying to shut the door. Franz held his hand out to stop it. “I know what you are. I know what you can do. I’m not going to report you-unless you do not help me…well, us.” Gothel sighed, opening the door and gesturing for Franz to come in. Franz wearily stepped into the house, ducking so he wouldn’t knock his head on the low beam. Gothel eyed him carefully, as if expecting him to do something. She closed the door, both standing in the gloomy entryway, regarding Franz.
“So you know,” she said, her voice dangerous and mysterious. Franz nodded. “I suppose you ought to know,” Gothel said, her voice tinted with malice. She slowly brought down the hood of her cloak, and shook out her thick, black hair. All the wrinkles disappeared from her face; restoring her youth. Her silver eyes changed to a deep, wise blue and she appeared taller as her stoop disappeared. Franz took a step back as he recognised this transformed woman as one of the witches that had been banished a year ago: the young woman who had cried out as the rebels stormed her house, the one who pleaded for mercy. She was back-and Franz knew she was dangerous.
Gothel knew the child. He seemed weak and a bit slow to Gothel. He had boyish looks: curly blonde hair and blue eyes. He was married to the village girl, Rosa. Rumour was she was pregnant-and devastatingly ill. Gothel should know. In the darkness of her house one night, jealous of Rosa’s freedom that she could not have, Gothel cast the spell that induced her illness. Now, she felt a prickle of annoyance. How dare the boy come and possibly plead his case in front of her, after what his people had done to her? Her suspicions were confirmed as he said,
“My wife-she’s ill. Well, she’s dying. She’s with child-and I just can’t stand by and let her and my child die. I love Rosa with my whole heart and if she were to die I’d be devastated. When I saw you cast magic-it was like a godsend.” Franz paused for a minute, his voice illuminated with pure hope. “I know you can help her. I promise I won’t report you if you make her get better. You can. And I won’t tell anyone-anyone, I promise. Just help me.” Franz’s voice cracked at the end, and Gothel saw the shimmer of a tear on his cheek. His love for the idiotic village girl was evident, but Gothel was enjoying this.
“How will this help me?” She sneered. “Even if I could, I wouldn’t. I have no magic to help that girl. She is beyond hope.” Gothel lied through her teeth, knowing it was perfectly in her capabilities. Franz knew she was lying. His eyes hardened, knowing the bitter witch would not help him. Something inside Franz fell apart, but he opened the door, knowing nothing could be done.
Just before leaving, Franz turned around. “You’ll regret this.” Franz promised, threateningly. Gothel raised a thin eyebrow, laughing coldly.
“How, child? You will not report me. You are too scared. Besides, who will believe you? Now, leave me be.” Franz knew she was telling the truth. He could not-Franz was a very kind, honourable person and he could not condemn this woman. She had not done anything yet-and she said she could not help Rosa. But inside him, Franz knew she could and was lying-finding pleasure in his pain.
The villagers would never believe the fragile, sweet old woman who lived in a slightly foreboding house would be the beautiful girl they banished years ago-who incidentally was an evil enchantress. It would be a tall story, in their eyes.
Smiling cruelly, Gothel watched Franz close the door with an air of defeat. Idiot, she scorned, walking back into her main room. Inside, she could see up to the room where Rosa lay, tossing and turning and breathing raggedly in her fitful. Gothel muttered something, and Rosa whimpered in her sleep as the green light caused by Gothel reached her. She’ll be dead by next Sunday, Gothel thought. Gothel tried to look for some compassion inside her-but she found none. She only found only hollowness and a bit of self-achievement. Her first act of revenge had gone well, it seemed.
Back inside his bedroom, Franz watched Gothel. The two held each other’s gaze, until Gothel drew her heavy curtains. Franz was about to do the same, when he saw a spark in the corner of his eyes. It was Gothel’s plant, the one the villagers called the Rapunzel plant. Suddenly, watching the mysterious plant, Franz knew it could help Rosa. His hope skyrocketed again-something inside him was sure. It was as if Gothel herself had planted the thought in his mind. But Gothel would never give up the plant she catered for so carefully. Franz decided he would find a way. By the time he fell into a weary sleep, a plan was already formulating.
The next few days, Franz watched Gothel while nursing Rosa. Her condition worsened: she spent the days chalk white, looking empty. Franz knew he had to act-and soon. Gothel only left her house once daily: at midday to go to market. The plan Franz was concocting finally came together: the loose strands connecting. He knew Gothel was being weary of him; hardly coming out. It was strange to see Gothel in her old woman form for Franz.
Inside, Franz knew that he needed to tell someone. His instinct told him Gothel was dangerous. But he clung onto the hope that if she remained in the village, Franz could use the plant. It was essential for Rosa’s survival. After he had the plant, Franz knew the future would be uncertain. Gothel would most likely be full of vengeance, and would know it was Franz. However, Franz didn’t mind about the threat looming over him of Gothel’s anger should he get caught. It was all tiny in comparison to his need to keep his wife alive.
On the Thursday, Franz knew Rosa was nearly dead. He spent the morning lovingly by her side, knowing he could not bide any more time. He could tear himself away from his wife, who was slipping away from his grasp. Did she recognise him, in her fever stricken eyes? Franz hoped she was still conscious of thought. About midday, Franz caressed her sweat sheened cheek and drew the covers up to her chin, kissing her forehead and smoothing her hair. Her eyes met him, pleading. Asking him where he was going. Franz just shook his head as he went downstairs, tears gathering in his eyes. He promised himself this wasn’t the last he’d see of her.
In the garden, Franz watched carefully over the small wall. He waited what seemed to be hours, anxiously jumping from foot to foot. The weather was mocking him: the sky was clear and the sun bright, the temperature just right. It was such a beautiful day for someone to be dying. Desperation reminded Franz that even if Gothel hadn’t left her house in a little while, he’d still find a way to get that plant.
Eventually, Gothel left the house-hunched over in her older form. The green cloak billowed around her-hiding her away from interaction. Franz jumped to the ground as Gothel looked around, her eyes narrowed. Not seeing anything, she turned and walked down the dust path. Franz waited until her stooped silhouette had disappeared, and jumped over the wall.
The silence and tension was crushing Franz. He felt perspiration dampen his palms and he dried them quickly on his trousers, wincing as his feet crunched the leaves on the floor as he blindly ran to the back of Gothel’s house. Gothel’s garden was overgrown: magical plants and vegetables growing in all directions: up against her house, soil overflowing in delicate pots.
The plant was even more beautiful close up: wispy, golden leaves and a pink stalk; somehow giving off a magical glow. Franz hated to be in the presence of the thing-but using the knife he brought with him he hacked off one golden leaf, and then another. Stuffing them in his cloak, Franz turned around-and almost screamed when he was met face to face with a furious Gothel in her younger form, looming over him.
“Stay away!” He tried to shout threateningly, brandishing his knife. It didn’t mask his fear.
“Foolish boy,” Gothel said quietly, and the knife wriggled out of his grip and clattered against the wall of the house. Franz watched it; getting ready to run. As Gothel bent to pick up the seemingly pathetic knife, Franz bolted.
An invisible hand dragged him back, pinning him up against the wall and choking him. Franz writhed in its grip, turning purple and trying to escape the magic that binded him against the wall.
“You think you can escape me?” Gothel laughed harshly, eyeing Franz. “I could kill you, right now, for stealing from me. I told you. I cannot, and will not help you.” The grip tightened, and Franz knew she wasn’t lying. Gothel stood casually; picking at her nail, as the magic she casted strangled him.
“Killing you will be easy.” Gothel said coldly.
“Wait,” Franz choked, spitting the words out. “What do-do you want. Anything.” Franz closed his eyes, waiting for death to come. Instead, the grip vanished and Franz was lying in a heap on the floor. Gothel eyed him. “Do not try to run. Listen, no interruptions.”
Franz nodded, terrified.
“Stealing from me-what a pathetic crime. I do not forgive easily, and your people have angered me already. You see, Franz Herbad, I am lonely. I am very, very lonely.” Franz wondered how she knew his name, but tossed the thought aside. He wondered why she was telling him this, but that became evident.
“Your people-they killed my family, my friends. Well, they died in the wilderness. I’m the lone survivor. You have no idea how alone I am. I spent years looking for people like myself. And they are gone-I’m the only one left. You do not understand the loneliness-the despair, the empty days and nights. I need someone who I can teach to be like myself. So, I need a companion.”
Franz closed his eyes, waiting for the blow. He had not stood up from the floor; Gothel looming up above him.
“We can make a deal, Franz. You don’t want to be turned in; you want your wife to be kept alive. I want a companion. Someone I can raise to be like me. All I ask is for your first born, and you can keep the plant.” Franz moaned, and Gothel bent down. Franz’s eyes flew open.
“No, I will do anything!” Franz cried, pounding at the floor.
“If you do not agree,” Gothel said coldly, “Not only will I make sure your wife dies, and your unborn baby, I shall also kill you. Choose wisely, Franz.” As she talked, Franz felt the pain of one thousand knifes attacking him from all directions-pain blossoming through him.
“No! No! Stop it!” Franz writhed on the ground as Gothel stood up; folding her arms and watching him squirm. Franz lost his mind; pleading for the pain to be over. He sobbed and cried, begging for release. Eventually, when all hope had gone, he shouted out, “Fine! I agree! You can have it! Anything!” Immediately, he regretted the words.
“I knew we could come to some agreement. Well done, Franz Herbad.” Gothel strode away, leaving Franz in a sweaty, painful heap. Franz got to his feet and ran home, tripping over his feet. Once home, he mixed the leaves with the broth he had prepared earlier, his fingers shaking. The leaves made the broth turn slightly pink and glow-but then would turn back to the normal, boring brown colour.
Franz hated himself for being so weak. Now Rosa would hate him. Franz couldn’t even bare to think about telling her what he’d done.
Upstairs, Franz gently fed Rosa the broth. Her eyelids fluttered, and suddenly she was awake and her fever had gone. It was magic. Rosa laughed a musical laugh, throwing herself into Franz’s arms.
“I knew you would find a way, my love,” she murmured into his shoulder. “You have saved us both.” Tears prickled at Franz’s eyes as he held Rosa-his beautiful Rosa at arm’s length and told her sadly;
“My love-I must tell you something.”
Rosa grew gradually more and more distant as Franz told the story, moving further away from him. When he told her that Gothel wanted the baby-and in blind panic he’d agreed-Rosa slapped him with all the power she could muster.
“You are an oaf!” She screamed, tears running down her cheeks. “I can’t believe you sacrificed my own child! I’d rather die! You must have known that I’d do anything to keep this precious child and even died; if I could not have them! There must have been some other way!” Rosa was crying so hard she did not notice when Franz enveloped her in his arms, stroking her white-blonde hair softly.
“Hush, darling. We shall find a way. And would you let me die, and live with it on your conscience? I did what I had to do.” Rosa quieted, her hand glued to her stomach. Franz’s hand met hers on her stomach.
“What, then?” Rosa said accusingly, “This baby will arrive in just in a few weeks.”
Franz imagined Gothel watching him; her hearing the next words. He closed his eyes, knowing their future as a family was uncertain.
Franz began to slowly hate himself for what he’d done. That next week, he realized they would never escape Gothel. Franz began to sense that the other villagers were right: magic is evil. Magic was going to prise his first born away from him, and wanted to let his wife die. Gothel could be reading his thoughts this very minute! However, he carried on putting provisions back and preparing for his and Rosa’s flight daily; hoping that he wasn’t deluding both Rosa and himself. He hoped that Gothel had forgotten; but he knew it was not going to go that way.
Franz had not seen Gothel herself at all that week. He wondered whether she was teasing Franz; waiting for him to come to her rather than the other way. He shook the thoughts away, throwing himself into plans for their future.
Rosa was more cheerful than ever; happily certain that they’d make it. Life seemed to come back to her: her eyes shone and her cheeks were rosy. Every day she chattered on about names for the baby and how life at her mother’s would be. Franz smiled for her, but his inner worries threatened to destroy his hope.
Franz had barely been out, that week. Rosa stayed at home, pottering around in the garden or reading books left to her by her siblings to do with child raising. Franz went out twice: once to the market and another to tell his own mother that Rosa and Franz would be going to see Rosa’s mother for a little while. He didn’t stress exactly why; but his mother nodded dotingly and wished him the best. Her own hands were full with her three children. Well, three of the nine she had.
That next Saturday, Rosa and Franz were discussing baby names by candlelight.
“Oh no, we can’t call the baby Mabel!” Franz cried, at the suggestion of naming it after Rosa’s old, bitter grandmother. It was no common secret. “I mean-maybe something else, dear?”
Rosa raised an arched eyebrow, but giggled a little. “Fine Franz, we shall not call the baby Mabel. Assuming it’s a girl, what about the name Alice? It’s simple, but full of charm.”
Franz closed his eyes, and imagined a daughter-with Rosa’s long, fair hair and Franz’s blue eyes. “Yes, Alice would be quite fitting.” Franz grinned, pleased at one certainty in his life.
“So if the baby is a girl, she will be called Alice.” Rosa smiled, gently patting her swollen stomach.
“And now, we must get some sleep. The baby will be here in a matter of days!” Franz exclaimed. The idea filled him with both dread and excitement. The reason they could not leave this instant was because Rosa, heavily pregnant, could not run. She could barely make it up the stairs. Franz wished the baby would stay safe, in Rosa’s stomach.
“I know, silly.” Rosa leaned over and softly pressed her lips against his. She smelt of lavender, and a sweet scent Franz didn’t know. Franz drew away, taking her soft hand and leading her up the stairs. Rosa fell asleep almost instantly, taking up the entire bed near enough. Franz chuckled, and watched her in a peaceful sleep.
That night, Franz could not sleep again. Rosa slept easily; sometimes saying words in her sleep. “Alice” was a common occurrence. Franz allowed himself to think of what would happen if Gothel caught them running, which was a very high possibility. She’d probably take the baby, and leave Rosa and Franz devastated.
Suddenly, Rosa flung her arm out, crying out loud as she slept. Franz shifted a bit, the bed suddenly feeling wet. Rosa sat up, her eyes blearing. “Franz,” she said quickly, her voice stilted, “The baby. It’s coming.”
Franz did not know much about child birth. He helped a groaning Rosa into a black cloak that covered her nightgown before putting his own boots over his nightclothes, grabbing the sack that was full of provisions and running out into the night, dragging Rosa with him. Franz knew he had limited time, and could not deliver this baby alone. They would go to Franz’s mother, and then flee with the baby.
Rosa, who was nearly crying with pain, kept hold of her stomach. She pulled Franz’s wrist, desperate to be heard. Her husband seemed manic. “Franz, I cannot run!”
Franz chewed his lip, knowing the plan was flawed. He pondered the situation. “You can make it. Just to my mother’s to have the baby, and then we shall go! I promise, my love.”
Shivering, Rosa puffed out her cheeks and nodded, her face drained of colour. “Yes, I shall try.” The pair walked slowly, Franz letting Rosa lean on him. Occasionally, she had to stop and regain her breath. As Franz passed Gothel’s house, he felt a shiver.
Eventually, the pair reached Franz’s mother’s house. Franz knocked on the door, urgently. Rosa cried out “I can feel Alice coming, Franz!” She grabbed hold of his shaking hand and squeezed it as she grimaced with pain. “Hold on.” Franz whispered.
Franz’s mother opened the door, looking dishevelled in her nightclothes. Her eyes were bleary and she looked suspiciously at Franz. Taking in the pair, and seeing Rosa’s pleading eyes, she ushered them in.
“Please, Janet, will it be okay?” Rosa pleaded. The older woman addressed her kindly, and gently. “Of course, Rosa, I shall try.”
Inside the warm house which was full of homely charm, Janet took Rosa from Franz’s arms and led her into the adjoining room. As Franz tried to follow, Janet blocked his path and tried to draw the door.
“I’m sorry, Franz, but I cannot allow you to be in here. Rosa is in much pain, and I am afraid you might get in the way.” Understanding he had been dismissed, Franz nodded tersely. The door clicked shut, and Franz sighed and sat down into a chair.
Franz would never know how long he spent there, waiting for Rosa and his new-born child. He could not imagine the child not being called Alice, having assumed it would always be a girl. In the flickering candlelight, he watched the front door, waiting for Gothel to storm in and demand the child. He worried for his wife; wanting to be with her, but he understood it might not help her. Besides, he disliked the sight of blood and was too squeamish to be of any help. But his mother knew what she was doing, having delivered children before. Franz occasionally heard a cry of pain, which was quickly subdued and it took immense will power to remain in his seat.
Franz looked around the room-which was dull, and dark. A collection of chairs stood in the middle, next to the hearth and that was just about it. There was nothing to take his mind of Rosa and his child, and Gothel.
What seemed like decades later, Janet opened the door. She smiled softly, gesturing Franz inside. “Is-is she okay?” Franz dropped the sack to the floor. Janet nodded, her eyes taking in her son and feeling proud. His love for Rosa was admirable. Franz half walked, half ran into the room and took in the scene. Rosa beamed up at him, her face still sweaty but full of joy. In her arms, she held a child, swathed in blankets. Even put in blankets, Franz could see locks of golden hair.
“Her name is Alice, like we agreed.” Rosa smiled at the baby, rocking it. “She even has blonde hair, like we foresaw.” Franz sat next to his wife, and looked down into Alice’s face. She had big blue eyes, and a soft rosebud mouth. She waved her tiny fists in the air, as if greeting the pair.
“Hello, Alice.” Franz felt his heart expand with love.
“Rosa needs to rest.” Franz heard Janet’s stern voice cutting through the scene. “I suggest you all stay here tonight.” Rosa looked up with hopeful eyes, clutching Alice to her chest.
“I’m sorry Mother, but that is not an option. We need to go.” Franz stood up, and kissed his mother on the cheek. The older woman sighed, but said “Very well.” Shaking her dull brown hair out, she exited the room to go back to sleep, sighing at the stupidity of Franz. Rosa was a tough girl, however.
“Oh please, not yet, Franz,” Rosa pleaded. She was weak and tired and did not want to run anywhere. Alice made little gurgling noises, making Rosa tighten her hold on her, kissing her soft forehead. “I’m sorry, we have to. Do you want Alice to be safe?”
Wincing, Rosa got up, gently moving Alice into the crook of her arm. Franz almost gagged when he saw the bloody part of her nightgown, but tried to remain calm. “It’ll not take long, I promise.” Franz said.
Rosa put her cloak on, moving slowly. Franz put his arm around her, and carrying the sack of supplies he led his family out into the night. The cold bit at him. Feeling the cold, Alice’s little mouth puckered and she wailed; a thin, high pitched sound that seemed to cut through the night. Rosa hushed her, smoothing her hand across Alice’s forehead to calm her. Franz took Rosa’s hand, and half dragged the tired woman down the path and out of the village.
No sooner had they passed the village boundary, there was a loud crack and Gothel appeared, and her eyes were full of venom. Terrified, Franz lurched back. Rosa screamed, making Alice cry once again. In that instant, it began to rain heavily. The rain bounced off the trio, making everyone colder than before.
“You are running? You are trying to run away from me?” Gothel chuckled. “Ha. I knew you were foolish, Franz, but not this foolish. Now hand over the child.” She extended one hand. Rosa looked up at Gothel in her other form, full of motherly protection.
“No. Alice is my child.” Rosa said, bravely. She shielded Alice in her cloak, trying to ignore her shrill cry. “You shall have to kill me, before taking my daughter.” Franz felt Rosa sagging a bit; and tried to hold her up. Gothel regarded the small family, her eyebrow arched. She noticed Rosa’s strained face, smudged with tears and sweat. She was tired, and would most likely grow ill.
“I am afraid you have no choice, Rosa, as if you do not hand over the child I shall kill you both, killing the child in the process. I shall spare your lives if you hand the child over.” Gothel’s voice sounded chilling, and Rosa flicked her suddenly wet hair back. Franz knew she would keep fighting.
“Rosa-don’t be a fool, darling. Give her Alice…do you want Alice to die as well as us both?”
An owl hooted and fluttered in the trees, heightening the silence. Franz shivered, reaching towards his wife. He pleaded with her. Gothel would get what she wanted, either way. In the darkness, he could just see Rosa breathing heavily, weighing her options.
Rosa hissed through her teeth. “I would rather die than give her to this madwoman.” Gothel spoke, her voice loud and clear as a bell.
“I promise you, Rosa Herbad, I will raise your daughter as if she was my own. She shall never know neglect, or pain. She shall be safe.” Franz reached for Alice. “Rosa, my dear, she’ll be safe. One day, we can find her.”
Rosa sobbed, seeming to give in. She kissed Alice’s forehead and stroked her cheek, whispering feverishly “Mother loves you.” Her tears mingled with the heavy downpour of rain, and Rosa forgot her own pain, trying to swallow up the image of her daughter. When Franz tried to prise the baby from her arms, she didn’t resist.
Hearing Rosa wail like a stricken animal, Franz winced and stroked Alice’s tufty blonde hair. The baby looked up at him with curious eyes, wanting to know why she was outside in such weather. Even as a child, she could sense great despair.
Tearing his eyes away from her, Franz held Alice out to the waiting Gothel. Gothel smiled down at the baby in her arms, ignoring Rosa’s muted sobs and Franz’s hopeless eyes. “I promise you, I shall raise her as my own.”
“She-she’s not yours!” Rosa screamed, pulling at her hair in despair. Gothel ignored her once more. Franz went and put his arm around his crying wife, who fell to the ground and just lay there in a heap. His eyes full of dulled fury, Franz turned to Gothel and pointed his shaking finger at her. “I swear-we shall find you, witch. We shall find you and get our daughter back. You will regret this.”
Gothel just smiled, looking down at the tiny baby in her arms who reached up to her. Before Franz had prised a subdued Rosa off the floor and turned to address the witch again, Gothel had disappeared into the dark night.