by Shell St. James
Appearing in Quibble Magazine
She didn’t even like frogs.
Vera scowled down at the frog in her bathtub, the third one to appear in four days. He blinked up at her, seemingly unruffled by her lack of affinity for his species.
She left the frog in the tub, shutting the door firmly so he wouldn’t escape, and went in search of a disposable cup. As she rummaged through the cabinet, she recalled her aversion to frogs had started in second grade, when a classmate had convinced her to pick one up at recess. It had peed in her hand and the kids had all laughed when she’d dropped it with a shriek.
Maybe it had been a toad, she mused, returning to the bathroom with cup in hand. It had been grey and brown and bumpy, not green.
She opened the door and peeked in the tub. The creature was still sitting there, unmoving.
He wasn’t green either, so she supposed he was a toad.
The question was, how did he keep getting in? There were no windows, and the stoppers to the sink and tub were securely covering the drains, with only a half inch of space. He couldn’t have squeezed through.
She set the cup on its side near him, hoping he’d jump in. He blinked but didn’t move.
She sighed, regarding the creature. Was it even the same toad? They all looked alike to her.
It bothered her, the not knowing. One toad who kept reappearing, somehow seemed less of a problem than a revolving door of strange toads.
With a flash of inspiration, she picked up her bottle of nail polish. Plum Passion. She squinted at the label, looking for some sort of hazard warning. It couldn’t be that harmful, right? After all she, herself, was wearing it.
She crouched by the tub, hoping he wouldn’t jump, and twisted the cap.
“This won’t hurt,” she crooned softly, and swabbed the loaded brush toward him, aiming for his back.
He jumped and she jerked back, spilling a few drops into the tub. It looked like blackberry wine. The toad jumped again, his front feet landing at the edge of the puddle, before hopping into the Styrofoam cup to hide.
Vera swooped in, quickly covering the cup with her hand.
Marching down the stairs, she peeked through her fingers at the toad with plum-colored feet. He blinked up at her nervously.
She opened the door, intending to toss him on the lawn, but upon seeing the harsh sunlight, decided that under the porch would be a kinder environment. She tipped the cup gently, depositing the toad into damp soil and dead leaves, feeling a bit guilty for his purple toes. He hopped away without a backward look.
Weeks passed, and the toad did not return. Vera watched TV and read books in solitude. If the toad had been a stray cat, she might have kept him for company.
She was painfully shy, with no skill at flirting or small talk, and she had no real friends. Her life revolved around her workplace, her voice becoming creaky and unused on weekends. Often, her only interactions outside of the work week were limited to thanking the pizza delivery guy and yelling out warnings to Rick Grimes as she watched TWD.
She had always been a loner…but for the first time she actually felt lonely. Vera found this new development unsatisfactory, but she was unsure of how one begins a social metamorphosis.
The new barista at the coffee shop handed Vera her change, thanking her. Her gaze, downcast by long habit, drifted up to his face, drawn to the rich baritone of his voice; soft like velvet and pleasing to her ears. The man blinked, regarding her with kindly brown eyes that held a spark of interest, as he handed her the mocha latte.
She reached for the Styrofoam cup and immediately noticed the wine-colored birthmark - a large patch that spread between his thumb and forefinger.
In an unprecedented reach for happiness, Vera took a deep breath and a leap of faith.
She invited him to dinner.
He said yes.