“Until next time,” the princess said. And the lowly frog meekly believed— in her good nature, in her good promise, in that hope that there will be, would be, can be a next time.
Until morning came, and she was nowhere to be seen. Not her face, not her garden, not her castle, not even the kingdom. Only a small pond where he woke up on each day, on a lush field field with only the music of the forest. It was all beautiful: the soothing sounds, the gentle rays of the morning light, creatures that respected one another in mutual existence. Until the frog realized that what he longed for the most— that fading dream of a princess in her lofty castle— was gone…
“Hey, that’s not how I remembered Princess and the Frog!” the little girl protested.
“Sssh,” her father said, sheepishly, “wait until I’m finished telling the story.”
And so the frog decided to leave his home behind, in pursuit of his imaginary love. He traveled near and far. He traveled here and there. Until he found himself back on his pond, and told himself: “I wasted time, going just a full circle. Maybe I should follow the sun.”
So he did, and along the way, he met boring people who did interesting things. Once he found a man pushing a pig up a tree, and said, “Why not just climb the tree yourself, and drop the acorns to your pig below?” The man angrily replied, “Shut up, you’re just a frog!” And so he left, more amused than insulted.
When the sun set, he sneaked into an abandoned house, and found some barn animals living there. “Can I stay here?” The dog barked, the cat hissed, the horse neighed, and the chicken shrugged and replied: “But you’re just a frog.” He spent the whole night wondering what the bird meant, and left before they all woke up.
He finally chanced a fellow adventurer— a gingerbread man— who ran with such abandoned that hopping alongside him felt quite a challenge. “Why are you running?” he politely asked the snack, who grinned as he exclaimed, “Because nobody can catch me, I’m the gingerbread man! How about you?” Before the frog could answer, they reached the river, and for the first time since they met, the frog saw worry, fear and hesitation on the gingerbread face. “I should swim,” the bread stupidly said. “No, you can’t.” The frog told him flatly. “Can I ride your back instead?” the now-stale bread pleaded, but the frog shook his head. “No, I’m too weak to carry you across.” Mr Gingerbread pouted, but then came Mr Fox who offered him a ride instead.
“Don’t trust him, Ginger!” frog cried out.
“Why not?” the bread said.
“Yeah, why not?” Fox echoed, sneering.
“Because… because, he’s a fox!” frog blurted.
“And you’re a frog!” bread said.
“And he’s food… I mean, a friend in need.” said the fox.
The frog, annoyed, swam ahead of them. A quarter of the way, he heard the bread say something, but he chose to ignore him. Halfway across the river, he noticed a hint of alarm in the bread’s voice; still, the frog swam ahead. A few frog strokes away from the shore, the frog distinctly overheard the bread’s last cry: “I trusted yo—!” The frog knew those words were directed at the fox, but he couldn’t help but feel those same words haunt his froggy heart.
But there was no time to be sad. Mr Fox, pawing a few moist crumbs off his mouth, nonchalantly said, “Ah, thank You Lord for that tasty hors d’oeuvre; time for some des cuisses de grenoille…”
“Dad, I don’t like your bedtime story anymore. I wanna sleep.”
“But honey, we’re just about to get to be best part—“
“Where’s the princess?” the little girl demanded.
He paused, smiled, kissed his daughter’s head. “I was just about to tell that part…” her father lied.
It was then that a slender hand rose up from the river, holding a silver sword… and flung it towards the frog.
… and because he was a frog without thumbs, the sword cleanly sliced him into two…
“Darling, it’s also OUR bedtime. Stop playing around.” His wife stood at their daughter’s bedroom doorway. And she didn’t seem to enjoy the story so far, either. She walked towards the bed, sat beside her daughter’s head, and lovingly elbowed her husband’s ribs.
“Okay… as the frog was about to get eaten, a hoard of fireflies came to his rescue,” the mother continued the story. “They flew around the fox, round and round until the distracted fox grew dizzy and forgot all about the frog…”
“Then the frog ate all the fireflies to obtain their power— and became the legendary FlameTongue Toad…”
Poor father was forced out and locked out of the room by the two most important women in his life.
“Mom, why is dad always like that?”
“I hate his stories. I like your stories better. I just wanted to know what happened to the princess.”
“You already know that story, though.”
“I still like to hear it,” the little girl smiled.
And so the mother told the old story, this time as the child remembered it fondly; and soon after, she was fast asleep.
Outside, the father sat on the floor, sullen.
“I didn’t get to finish my story.”
The mother wrapped her arms around him. “Hush, my lovely old frog.”
The father kissed her. He wasn’t sure if he was kissing the princess or the fox, or maybe both. He wasn’t sure until when he can come up with new stories to tell, or words to say. He wasn’t sure until when their child would stay with them, would love them, would grow to find and live her own fairytale. There was only now, today, here: both in this reality and fantasy that they are continually creating for and with each other. Until the last drop of imagination joins the immeasurable world of memories.
But until their story ends, it didn’t really matter.
Until the story ends, there’s always a new twist waiting tomorrow.