Gwen was a little Brown Kacheek who lived in the village of Neovia. She had no brothers or sisters to play with and both her parents worked all day long. Her mother was a really sweet red Meerca and her father a blue Ruki.
Her father's name was Anton. He was a carpenter who was working all day long in the shed behind the house to fix up old furniture. If a table had a gap in it, no problem! He would take off the legs and attach them to an old door. As good as new! And the table even came with a nifty door handle.
Unfortunately most people did not see the use of a door handle on a table and found it in fact quite annoying. Therefore, Anton did not sell a whole lot of his furniture.
Fortunately Gwen's mom, Fiona, had a job as well. She worked for the Crumpetmonger. Her job was to make new recipes for pastries. Fiona was quite creative with ingredients. She mixed up whatever she could find from leftovers in the house. Famous pastries such as the mushroom cereal combo were her creations. It all tasted terrible, of course, but everyone was too polite to tell her the truth.
Every evening at dinner, Fiona presented her newest pastry creation to Anton and Gwen who both ate it without complaining. When Anton said: "This is delicious, dear!" Fiona's eyes sparkled with joy. So every night Anton complimented her about her cooking. Gwen ate her dinner without letting out a word. Of course, she craved a delicious chocolate cake without green beans in it or maybe spaghetti and meatballs instead of a pastry with spaghetti and tangerines. But she never complained.
During the day Gwen played out on the street on her own. There were not many other children living in Neovia and the ones that were, were quite boring. All they wanted to do was play chess or read the newspaper. Gwen was much adventurous than that. She wanted to play with balls, climb trees and sneak in someone's garden to steal apples. Because of the lack of friends, she did those things on her own. She would bounce balls on the wall of her house and catch them. She balanced on the curbs pretending to be a circus act. However, her favorite occupation of all was spying on her neighbor.
Gwen's neighbor was a giant. At least she had to be. She was huge, both tall and wide. She was normal for a Skeith but compared to Gwen, she was gigantic. Her skin color was very pale lilac, as you expect from royalty. Perhaps she was the queen of all giants.
When Gwen peeked through the window, when the Skeith was not home, she saw a huge cage. A cage that big could only be used to hold little children in that she kept to bake in her cakes. There was always a cake or a plate of cookies sitting on the table. Gwen could smell it outside. It smelled delicious but she knew better. Gwen knew the main ingredient was little children. It had to be.
The living room looked quite lovely. It had flowers everywhere and there was always a little Kadoatie sitting on the window bench and on the couch. It was all false pretence. She had all those things to make little kids think that she was a kind old lady. Gwen knew better than that! She always saw the giant standing in front of the window, looking at her as she was playing with her ball. And even when she knew she was in a place where she couldn't be seen, she still felt those piercing eyes in her back.
One time, Gwen was playing with her ball again. She tossed it up in the air as high as she could, let it bounce on the ground once and then kicked it away to run after in and do it again. This game was quite boring. She decided to make it a little more challenging. She tossed the ball up, let it bounce once, but instead of kicking it in the direction of the street, she kicked it to the giant's house. It went over the fence and in her back yard. Gwen heard a loud shattering noise. Uh oh.
The fence of the giant's garden was really high and made from wooden grids, probably to keep people from looking at her when she was performing her giant witchery rituals. Gwen hesitated for a second but then decided to climb over it to retrieve her ball. She saw that the giant had gone out with two huge shopping bags about thirty minutes ago. She would not be back for a while. Moreover, she got that ball for Christmas and there was no way she would get a new one after kicking it in the giant's backyard. Her parents always told her to be nice to her. They even called the giant by her name; Amelie. What kind of name is that for a giant? Giants should be named Betalgeuse or Gertruida. Probably just another trick to get kids to believe she was a sweet old lady. Gwen was smarter than that!
She put her foot on one of the wooden grids and raised herself up. Gwen was good at climbing so she was over the fence in no time. In the garden there was surprisingly little odd to see, which in itself, of course, was odd. It was a very lovely garden with roses, tulips and dahlias everywhere. She must have hidden the evidence, Gwen thought.
Gwen looked around and saw what caused the shattering noise. Her ball went right through the roof of a greenhouse. Inside the greenhouse, between tomato plants, lay her ball. It was still whole with all the air inside. Gwen sighed in relief. She went in the greenhouse to pick up her ball. Then she heard a noise behind the backdoor of the house. It was the giant. She came back. Gwen's face turned from light brown to red. As fast as she could she ran to the fence and started to climb over it. She realized that climbing with a ball is a lot harder than without. Gwen looked over her shoulder and saw that the giant had came in to the garden and came her way. She dropped the ball and climbed over the fence as fast as she could. Just in time.
She knew had lost her ball forever, though. And the giant would probably go to her parents and tell them what she had done. She would be grounded for the rest of her life. At least it was better than ending up in a cake or a cookie. She walked home with her head low.
That evening at the dinner table, her mom and dad said nothing about the ball incident. They were having a pastry with broccoli and chewing gum. "You are such a wonderful cook, honey." Fiona's eyes sparkled again. Gwen kept quiet. The giant must not have told Mom and Dad. Of course not, you cannot make a pie from a kid who is grounded. Right now, the giant is probably preparing an extra special cake. A Gwen cake. Gwen stared at her plate. She could not get one bite through her throat.
“What's wrong, sweetie? Don't you like your pastry?” Fiona asked.
“No, Mom, it's really good, I just have a sore tummy,” Gwen lied. Fiona believed her.
The next day Gwen decided to stay inside. It is a lot safer inside than on the street where a giant can catch you and bake you into a cookie. Unfortunately, sitting inside on your own is very boring. Gwen did not understand how all those other children did it. She had no interest in books or things like that. She wanted to go out on an adventure! Therefore Gwen was almost happy when her mother sent her out to run some errands.
“I need some eggs, Gwen, can you go to the store for me and buy a dozen eggs?” Fiona asked.
“Sure, Mom.” And Gwen was on her way. She decided to take the long route so she did not have to pass the giant's house. The store normally is only a five-minute walk but the long route took her more like twenty minutes. After Gwen bought the eggs, she still had some Neopoints left and she decided to buy an ice cream cone from the little cart. Chocolate chip vanilla ice cream, her favorite.
Gwen was so happy with her ice cream that she forgot to take the long route home. As she was licking her cone, she saw a big shape coming her way down the road. It was the giant. She had two big shopping bags, one in each hand. Gwen's head turned red once again. She turned around and started running but in her haste, her foot got stuck under a tree root and she fell on the floor, her ice cream spilled and the eggs broke. Gwen panicked. She tried to pull her foot loose but could not. The giant was approaching and now standing right next to her. She raised her hand. Gwen closed her eyes. This was it, the end. But instead of hurting her, the hand reached for her foot and released her. Gwen did not hesitate one second and ran off.
Not one time did she look over her shoulder to see if she was being followed. Gwen ran all the way to the store. Only after that, she dared to stop. The giant was nowhere to be seen anymore.
Gwen realized that she was going to come home without any eggs. She wondered what she should tell her mom. Gwen walked home as slow as she could. Confusing thoughts went through her head. Why did the giant not capture her? She could have easily grabbed her and brought her back home. Could it be that Gwen was wrong about her?
After a while, Gwen made it back home. Something was lying on the step in front of the front door. It was a box with eggs and her ball. The giant must have put them there. Gwen picked them up and walked inside.
That night when she was lying in bed, all she could think of was the giant. Gwen decided that if she wanted to find out the truth about Amelie, she had to ring the doorbell and talk to her.
The next day she gathered all her courage, went over to the giant's house and rang. It stayed quiet for a while. Gwen silently hoped that she was not home. Right when she was about to turn around, the door opened and the giant's head appeared through the crack.
“Yes? Can I help you?” the giant's head asked.
Gwen felt so small. Maybe this was not such a good idea. Gwen was too scared to say anything.
“Would you like to come in for some tea? I just finished a plate of cookies,” the giant said.
“I would like that, Mrs Giant.” Right away Gwen realized what she said. “I'm sorry, I did not mean that.” Her head was turning red again, this time from embarrassment.
The Skeith laughed. “It is all right, dear. You can call me Amelie.”
Gwen entered the house and noticed how wonderful and warm it felt. The sweet smell of cookies filled her nostrils. In the corner of the living was the big cage Gwen had seen when she was peeking inside. It did not have children in it. Only a Naleap that whistled softly when they entered the room.
“Go ahead and sit down while I make you some tea,” Amelie said. Gwen went to sit on the couch. It had a lovely pink flower print. Right away, a white Kadoatie jumped on her lap and started purring.
“Ah, I see you met Dahlia,” Amelie said from the kitchen. “I can tell she likes you!”
She came out of the kitchen carrying a big tray with two cups, a teapot and a plate full with cookies. They were shaped like flowers and had pink icing. It looked wonderful. Amelie poured tea in her cup and gave her a cookie.
“This is the best thing I've ever tasted in my life!” Gwen said.
“Ah, I am so glad that you like it! Not many people come in here to have tea with me. It is so nice to share my cookies with someone other than my Kadoaties.”
Gwen smiled and took a sip of her tea. It tasted a little odd. But when you just had the most delicious cookie ever, anything will taste odd.
“I am sorry about your greenhouse. I will help you fix it,” Gwen said.
“Ah, it is all right. I already repaired it myself. I appreciate the offer, though. My flowers mean a lot to me.”
Amelie told Gwen that she was the neighborhood watch and she kept an eye out for strange things happening on the streets. Gwen felt horrible for thinking she was spying on her. There really was nothing scary about Amelie. She was just a nice lady who liked baking cookies. Gwen wished she had known this earlier.
Gwen yawned. “I am getting really tired for some reason. I can barely keep my eyes open. I should probably go on home.”
“Why don't you stay here a little longer? I love your company.” Gwen was too tired to protest.
Amelie picked her up and put her on a very sweet smelling bed. It almost smelled like cake. Then it got very, very warm. But Gwen didn't notice anymore. She had already fallen in a deep, dreamless sleep.