By Peter F. Stine
One warm summer’s eve, the stars in the heavens overhead strayed from their dome. And where the sky encroached on the world below, they mingled and merged their burning glow with the fireflies that strafed a pond buzzing with life. The moon lit the Earth with a brilliance befitting love and adventure. Altogether, an ideal setting for the well-rounded frog who sat on a muddy bank looking up. A figure stood over him in pink taffeta and tulle, topped with a bejeweled tiara. A storybook brand of magic hung thick in the air.
“Princess,” the frog croaked. “Princess, Princess.”
The pink figure looked across the sheltered pond, at the bushes beyond on the far side, calling back, “Hello? Is someone there?”
The frog smacked one front foot into the mud, careful not to splash the regal dress, but loud enough to make a “kerplop” sound.
“Down here. Down here,” he croaked.
“Oh, my!” The princess looked down. “A dapper little frog. And you can talk!”
“I can, I can,” the frog replied. “Need kiss. Princess kiss.”
“Oh, I see.” The princess crouched down. “I’ve read about situations like this. I never knew they were true.”
“True, true.” The frog nodded.
“Well, then, I would be remiss to deny you a kiss. After all, I look like the only princess out here this evening.”
The princess grasped the frog in both hands, then stood, holding him at eye level.
The two remained still for what might have been a moment, or possibly a few, staring deep into each other’s eyes. Finally, the frog saw the beginnings of a pucker on the moonlit face, and felt himself being drawn in for a kiss.
“Wait,” the frog said. “Wait, wait.”
The princess moved the frog back.
“What is it? Do you not desire a kiss?”
“I do, I do,” the frog replied.
“Then why do you say to wait?”
“I just—well, I have to level with you.”
The princess placed the frog on the muddy ground and took a step back, looking down at him.
“Your speech. It’s suddenly quite human.”
“Yes,” admitted the frog, “I can speak normally. But if I do it right away, it freaks people out. And if I start off with a stereotypically ‘froggy’ syntax, it puts people at ease.”
“That makes sense,” said the princess. “But why then, if you were going to receive my kiss, having talked in a ‘froggy’ manner, did you stop me? And why now reveal that you can speak so well?”
“This is going to sound crazy, but it felt dishonest. Truth be told, I don’t even care that you’re a princess. I only said, ‘Princess kiss,’” the frog repeated the words in his frog voice, “because you’re wearing that crown. I figured if you’re not actually a royal, you would be flattered. And if you are one, then you would think our meeting was somehow preordained.”
“I see,” said the princess, hands on hips.
“Like maybe that you were in the right place at the right time, and that only you, with your royal distinction, could help me. It was manipulative. I apologize.”
The princess gazed down at the frog and said nothing.
“I understand if you’re angry. Honestly, you appeared like a vision, and I’ve been so lonely here in the pond. I’ll swim off now and leave you to enjoy this magical evening.”
As the frog turned to bounce away, he felt two hands wrap around his ribcage and lift him back up. The princess turned him around to where their eyes met again.
“Perhaps it is I who should apologize,” said the princess.
The frog stared, blinking at the figure for what might have been a moment, or possibly a few, and said nothing.
“You see, I am not truly a princess. I hope you can forgive me.”
“Oh, thank God,” said the frog. “I abhor the royals. But you are so enchanting that I forgot all about my own disdain for their posh foolishness.”
The crowned figure blushed and smiled, revealing small imperfections that made the frog swoon.
“Kiss, kiss,” the frog croaked, closing his bulging eyes and puckering his lips.
“Wait. Wait, wait,” said the princess. “I must also tell you that not only am I not a princess, but that my name is Dave. I dress this way, sometimes, when I want to feel beautiful. I did not mean to deceive you, dear frog, or anyone. My true love has departed, taking my joy afar to lands unknown. I only wanted to be happy again, if only for a little while.”
The frog looked the princess up and down. He only now noticed the oversized silk shoes and rough stubble under the frilly, pink collar.
“You dressed this way to look beautiful?” the frog asked, returning his gaze to Dave’s now dewy eyes.
“Yes,” came the reply from behind a lace handkerchief that dabbed away a tear.
“Well,” said the frog, “it’s working.”
Anyone walking by the moonlit, buzzing pond on that herbal tea with honey evening would have sworn that they saw a true princess kissing a frog in a manner that is often claimed to transform such creatures into handsome princes. But no one walked by. No one was transformed. Not on the outside. And as the stars and the fireflies mingled and merged, the frog and Dave both felt something inside of them that hadn’t been there before. They felt happiness. And they felt it for quite some time.