Kermit was a frog-faced boy, arguably prince of the court pages, or a prince-turned-page; it didn’t matter, he was simply there, and I never considered paying him any attention. He fetched and carried for me when I wanted a book, or mislaid a ribbon. On one memorable occasion, I accidentally bounced my golden ball into a well. He lowered himself on a rope into that fetid, claustrophobic bore, then climbed out again. I may have thanked him. Possibly I humored him by reading aloud to him that evening.
My parents infused me with their dreams: a handsome prince, a faraway castle, a dozen darling babies. They invited sycophantic aristocrats from far and wide to woo me. Kermit escorted them in, sequentially. I was young enough to be choosy. I declared this one too old, another too poor, and another afflicted with the devil’s own temper…
Kermit helpfully returned them to their carriages.
Afterward, I would challenge him to backgammon to banish the winter-evening tedium. Then he began to win.
I proposed switching to cards.
As I grew older, the number of visitors increased; my parents’ patience dwindled. They declared a zealot, a miser, and an illiterate troll to be ‘fine matches’. I, accordingly, spent as much time lost in the gardens as possible. Summer and winter.
Kermit would appear and say, “Shall I pretend not to have found you?”
At that I would return with him to have dinner with my mother and father, and receive a dressing-down. My parents promptly threatened to marry me to Archie, 13th Duke of Dimwits, Lord of Loudmouths, and Baron of Buffoonery, unless I selected a suitable mate.
Kermit concurred that I should seek other options.
In desperation I wrote to a favorite cousin, who suggested Cedric, Lord Lackluster. His father possessed a minor title and a major fortune. Cedric he dismissed as a mild-mannered soul who had missed his vocation as a watchmaker.
“I could manage him,” I mused.
“Send me away,” Kermit replied, suddenly.
“What?” I said, my mind on possible avocations for those moments when my future husband sat tinkering with mainsprings.
“Send me away. Before your marriage,” Kermit said.
He still looked rather amphibious. But, also, dreadfully solemn.
“Of course,” I shrugged.
But as my wedding day approached, I required Kermit to fetch the tailor, the milliner, the florist… and I delayed his dismissal from day to day. Finally, on the eve of my wedding, Kermit said,
“Kiss me goodbye, Lorena.”
I didn’t think of Kermit, then. I considered Cedric and his bulbous chin. Tomorrow, I will be his wife. I stole a look at Kermit, and dutifully kissed him on the cheek.
“No,” he declared.
And then I thought: The evenings might be dreadful without him.
The afternoons will be awful, too. He won’t be there to find me amidst the rosebushes.
And the mornings.
I kissed him. Deliberately. Properly.
Perhaps he was not the prince of my dreams… but I preferred not to live without him.
Linda McMullen is a wife, mother, daughter, diplomat, and homesick Wisconsinite. Her short stories and the occasional poem have appeared in over one hundred fifty literary magazines. She may be found on Twitter: @LindaCMcMullen.
Artwork: Anna Dittmann, Vein