The Frog Prince
Feeling the warm breeze and the vibrant humming of the tiny animals around her filled her with pure bliss. The pond was surrounded by a dark green wonder, leaving most feeling at peace. Sitting on the edge, she'd tip her bare toes into the water to feel its anonymous gifts. She'd been coming to the pond since infancy. It was her mother and father's favorite reprieve. Times have changed, though, with her father lost to war and her recent proposal dictating a swift move away from her home. A quite far moved, so far that the pond would no longer exist to her.
In frustration, the young girl picked up a stone, chucking it harshly into the crystal blue water, creating a significant disturbance. Huffing a forced sigh, she crossed her arms as a toddler would, questioning her mother's demand for a wedding and how she could ever leave this pond so effortlessly. She didn't feel twenty. Her mother had insisted the final visit to the pond would've been yesterday, but there was no way she'd give up the fragrant energy of this place on her birthday, especially knowing her next birthday would be very different.
She scooted further to the edge, sliding her feet deeper into the water, as she daydreamed of her new life that would start tomorrow shortly after walking down that aisle. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath of piney pond air and smiled.
"Hi there," she heard loudly from behind her. She squeezed her eyes tighter, hoping it wasn't one of her soon-to-be husband's guardsmen coming to collect her. Gritting her teeth into a smile, she turned to see a young man around her age. His immediate beauty had stolen her words. Silently she watched as his blonde hair caught the breeze and his shirt clasped against his chiseled bust. She felt a curiosity in his dark green eyes. His smirk widened as he reached his hand to her, "Xenopus," he said, waiting on her acknowledgment.
Shaking to life, she muttered, "what?"
"My name," he said, "Xenopus. Are you from around here? I haven't noticed you before."
Smitten, she rambled, "oh yes, I've been coming here since a small child, but I'll be moving soon. Today is my twentieth birthday. Oh," she said, reaching for his hand, "sorry, nice to meet you Zeen-OH-pus," she sounded out.
He beamed, "that's right. Twenty, huh? That's quite a special year around here."
"Really?" She chirped. He nodded, "take a walk with me?"
"Of course," she said, popping up to meet his stance, brushing off the bits of grass from the back of her dress. One last adventure, she thought.
They spent the whole afternoon together. They laughed and frolicked throughout the surrounding forest. He had a way with the plants and animals that fascinated her. Every time his fingers touched her, she felt magic. They ended back at the pond edge, sitting between a set of sizeable purple fern flowers she hadn't noticed before. The smell was intoxicating. She held his hands as he stared deeply into her soul.
"I don't want to go," she whispered, "but I must." She lowered her head and began to stand, knowing that her mother would be furious if she arrived home after dusk.
"I understand," he said, gripping her hands, "but could I ask you for something?"
"Anything," she said, attempting to prolong the moment.
"One parting kiss?" He said, leaning in so closely that she felt his warm breath heat her lips. She hesitated, questioning her morality. She was to marry another man tomorrow and was prepared to do that. He was handsome and thoughtful of her, although she did not choose the marriage. She looked at Xenopus. His presence was comfortable, making her feel at ease. She held his hand tightly in her lap and suddenly pushed into him, falling freely to his lips in pure passion.
Swiftly she pulled away with remorse, feeling a weakness in her belly. An ache she'd never felt before. Locking eyes with the beautiful man in front of her sent a raw sting through her spine. She knew she had made a colossal mistake. His pupils altered to an almond shape with a yellow undertone, and a noticeable foul odor permeated the atmosphere. As his grin widened, the black sludge between his teeth became apparent. Her breath felt stolen as a sharp needle pain consumed her body like poison. She knew her existence was obsolete as a gradual burn encased her eyes, and the world around her went black.
The young girl never showed up for her morning nuptials, which led to a month-long search. Many speculated that she had gotten cold feet, but her mother knew better. Racing to the pond the morning of her daughter's disappearance, she noticed the dying purple fern on the water's edge. It had been the same fern she'd seen the day after her sister had gone missing on what happened to be her twentieth birthday. Tears filled her eyes as she stared into the now dark, black water. She was delusional in thinking her daughter would've grown bored of this pond from all the visits and ignored it. Ripping the dead fern from its home, she pleaded, "please, frog prince, return her to me. I'll do whatever you ask!"
When the response was nothing but silence, she knew it was too late, and he had already taken her to the world of misery below the muck.