Hardly spilling any of her mimosa, Alice spread her arms. “Where’s the magic? Countless fairytale princesses were wooed and won by their shining knights… Why won’t the universe…?”
Mary and Jen made sad faces at Alice’s frustration.
“My priest said ‘the universe doesn’t give a…’”
“I know what your priest said, Mary. I can’t believe a priest would say that in church.”
“He was just making a point…” Mary nudged Jen who stifled a giggle.
Each sipping a mimosa, Alice, Mary and Jen slipped out of the lakeside restaurant. They strolled the rough path above the cat-tail lined shore.
Hoping for cast-offs, ducks, geese and one ambitious coot paddled at a respectful distance. A bright orange dragonfly darted about. Mayflies danced across the water like tiny ice skaters.
Singing from atop a cat-tail, a red-winged black bird drew the trio’s applause. A fountain splashed mid-way across.
Saturday meetings for lunch had become a regular thing for them. Close since high school, they’d known each other most of their lives. The conversation had range, but usually settled on men, or the lack thereof.
“Hold my mimosa…” Alice handed her glass to Jen. She crouched to examine an over-sized leaf lying on the path. Despite the still air, it quivered.
Her friends watched Alice gently tip the leaf to reveal a crouching frog.
“He’s wearing a crown,” she cooed. It leaped into the water before she could cup it in her hands.
Jen said, “Typical fear of commitment.”
Alice watched the ripples spread into the lake. “He said something.”
Mary said. “Yes. Did you hear? ‘Ribbit.’”
The dragonfly hovered by Alice’s head. She said, “No. It sounded like, ‘Not yet.’”
The others laughed, “How many mimosas have you had, Leese?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” said Jen, “…aren’t you too old for fairy tales?”
Mary said, “Don’t want warts. Won’t catch a man with warts.”
Alice stood, and smoothed her skirt. “Warts are from toads. Not frogs. And it’s an old wife’s tale.”
Jen returned her mimosa. “So, how’s that dating site going?”
Alice “It’s called ‘Plenty of Fish.’”
“That’s encouraging… Not.”
Mary asked, “How many fish have you dated?”
“Six, so far.”
Alice made a face. “Nothing but bobbers.” The others laughed.
Jen rolled her eyes. “So, fishing for frogs? Kind of desperate, don’t you think?”
She didn’t defend. Alice knew their teasing. She scanned the reeds for her frog.
Mary asked, “Or are you the fish?”
“That crossed my mind… Why’s everything so hard?”
“Men are so passive anymore.” Mary tossed a stone and waited for the splash. Alice tensed and looked for her frog. “Are you the water or the wave?”
“Promotion or attraction?”
Alice rolled her eyes. “Don’t pawn off your 12 step platitudes, Jen.”
“It’s true. They only watch sports and saddle you with the tadpoles.”
Alice looked at the cat-tails. “I should be so lucky.”
Mary spoke with authority. “They say, by the time a woman hits thirty…”
“Please… Is that what you do? Trade statistics? Who are ‘they’ anyway?”
“Get real, Al. We’re all driven by that ticking clock.”
Jen raised her fist in mock protest. “I say, ‘Go digital!’”
“I feel I’m doing all the work. Don’t you?”
Mary nodded. “Too true. Like nothing will happen if I don’t...”
Jen said, “Years ago, I heard a preacher talking about Adam and Eve. He said because women are smarter, men need to work like hell to keep them down. He got a huge laugh.”
Mary shook her head. “What a putz.”
“He holds his wife up like royalty. She’s no fool. And he knows it.”
Mary smiled. “Pedestals are passé.”
Alice shrugged. “I’d climb onto one. Wouldn’t even expect a boost.”
“That’ll win his heart. Hold up a cheese soufflé, just out of reach.” They all laughed.
Alice posed, holding up her empty mimosa glass. “Like the Statue of Liberty…” That brought a bigger laugh.
They reached the end of the path and turned back.
Alice mused, “Truth is, we’ve forgotten how to play. Like kids. It’s a game.”
“A dance…” Mary perked up.
Jen shook her head. “But boys don’t dance.”
Mary agreed. “And if boys don’t, men especially don’t. Everything, and everyone is so set in their ways.”
“I don’t want to settle.” Alice stopped.
Jen put on a cowboy twang. “Hey, little filly, I’m too young to hang up my spurs…”
“I mean, we need to mix it up, some.”
Mary and Jen nodded, but offered no solution.
Alice added, “I know, it takes two…”
Mary and Jen said in chorus, “…and boys don’t dance!” That made them collapse into a laughing group embrace. They smiled widely at each other.
Alice held up her empty glass. “Here’s to us… my forever BFFs!”
The empty glasses clinked a dull chord as they touched. They tipped them back.
Jen smacked her lips. “Mmmm, nice bouquet…”
Alice touched their arms. “Shhh…” Nodding toward the muddy shore, she whispered, “He’s back. I must… Stay here.”
Alice moved a few steps toward the frog and kneeled onto the soft earth. The frog took notice and hopped tentatively in her direction. He appeared to be wearing a crown.
Trying not to laugh, Mary and Jen stepped back.
Alice reached out and cupped her hands, a gesture of offering. She bowed her head like a lady-in-waiting might, for royalty.
The frog hopped toward her. And stopped. Alice held her pose. He hopped several more times, stopping just short of her open palms. He regarded her silently.
With one last lunge, he landed in her open hands. Alice looked up and their eyes met. She gently raised her hands to her face. The frog sat still.
Stifling laughter, Mary buried her head in Jen’s shoulder.
Alice and the frog gazed at each other for a long moment.
She leaned in and kissed him on the nose. She felt him press into her lips.
Alice felt dizzy. Mist rose and swirled. She and the frog stood in the vortex. For a moment, she remembered hearing about frogs with poisonous skin. But this felt magical and pleasant. And fun! Not at all poisonous.
The frog grew to match her stature and the mist cleared to reveal them standing, arm in arm, on a lily pad. He remained a frog. She looked down and noticed she’d taken on froglike attributes.
He smiled. “Welcome, Princess Alice. Thank you for returning.” He leaned in and kissed her the sweetest kiss ever.
The bright orange dragonfly, now enormous to her, hovered nearby. It said, “Is there anything your highness desires?”
She pondered and realized, suddenly, an enormous craving for Mayflies.
“I’ve never had one. Would it be too much…?”
“Of course not, Milady. I’ll see to it directly.” The dragonfly disappeared. In a moment, it returned bearing a plate with the most beautiful display of Mayflies.
Alice popped one into her mouth and it tasted better than she’d ever imagined.
The frog prince put his arm around her waist for a gentle hug. She moved into his embrace and began to giggle.
Pulling away for a moment, Alice turned to him. “Froggie?”
“Do you mind if I call you Froggie?”
“Of course!” He laughed. “I expect no less. What else would you call me?”
They laughed together, and kissed. And laughed some more.
And they lived happily ever after.