Hope decided not to analyze the situation too much. Sure, it was a frog, and sure, kissing a warty amphibian in the mud with leathery, paper-rough folds and flabs of skin that resembled a thick green tongue was not very desirable. Ewwww…! But who was she to look down on him? She was just a simple flower girl whom no man seemed to want. She took a deep breath in and held it, then closed her eyes, puckered her lips, leaned close, and sssmmmooooooch!
Her eyes popped open to watch the miraculous transformation, but the same frog with the same warts, folds, flab, and tongue squatted before her. And he didn’t seem surprised at the lack of results. “Nice one!” he grinned and winked, then rubbed and licked his lips as if to recall and critique the kiss. “But uh, maybe a little rushed. I’m not sure you really meant it.”
Hope blinked. “That’s why you’re still a frog – because I didn’t mean it? I thought you said the kiss was the key!” Of course she hadn’t meant it, at least not beyond the hopeful attempt to find a prince. How humiliating… she should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.
“Calm down, Princess Hop,” the frog said without concern. “Sometimes these things take time. Sometimes the kiss needs some work. Sometimes a girl’s gotta try a little harder, love a little deeper, give a little more. Hope is risky – but you gotta take the leap!” With that he jumped high in the air and landed on her shoulder. “Yes, Princess, you are a risky one, but I am willing to work with you, ’cause I think you have potential. Stay in the Swamp for a while. I’ll teach you to swim, and tonight we’ll watch the fireflies dance. You’ll love it!”
Hope was a little confused. She thought it was the frog who would change – transform into a handsome and charming prince – that was what she’d always heard before, wasn’t it? It never occurred to her that she would have to change to suit a frog! But, not seeing any charming princes anywhere, she resigned herself to following his lead. A frog had to be better than nothing, and besides, it wouldn’t be forever. If she changed, then maybe he would change, too.
As promised, she did learn how to swim like the frog, and that night they sat together on a mound of moss and watched the elegant, shimmering dance of the fireflies. And Hope smiled – in an odd way, she was having fun. She enjoyed being with the frog and doing new things. Exhausted from a long day of travelling, swimming, and giving her first kiss to a frog who was still a frog, she fell asleep.
In the morning, she woke up and was startled to see that the frog was a little paler and about three feet taller. “Oh my!” she exclaimed, “You are changing!”
“So are you, Princess Hop! Say, have you ever played leap frog?” he asked with a mischievous grin. That day, the frog showed Hope how to hop, skip, and jump from one lily pad to the next, both of them making horrible sloppy splashes each time. Then they leapt over each other, then competed to see who could jump higher, then who could fly further in one bound.
The whole day passed in this fashion of fun and games – jumping, splashing, and laughing together. And when they were both soaking wet and tired, the frog said, “How about we try that kiss again?” He looked muddy and slimy now, and as wrinkled and warty as ever, but Hope thought she probably looked just as bad, so she bent down and kissed him again.
Again, no magic seemed to occur, and Hope frowned, feeling even more embarrassed and disappointed than before. The frog also acted disappointed… in her. “Princess Hop, you still don’t have it quite right… not quite good enough for a prince. But hey, there’s always tomorrow!”
There’s always tomorrow? thought Hope, incredulous. How many tomorrows would there have to be before she was good enough to deserve a prince? The fireflies started to light up the swamp again, but she was suddenly weary and worn, and found a soft patch of moss to lie down on and went to sleep.