Green Queen

I typed the first sentence of my conclusion and touched my bottom lip. The snake-bite studs felt cold and smooth. Almost too rad to stand. Jessica Butcher was going to die from jealousy, and that made me smile. Then the cursor stopped blinking.

I typed a few words, but nothing happened. Hit the space bar. Hit return. Hit tab and escape and backspace. The cursor didn’t move and I couldn’t stop touching my lip. Then the screen went dark.

I was sitting in the computer lab, missing an entire paper on the Gilded Age and the bell was about to ring. And someone was standing over me.

I looked up to see Franklin Fergusen. He was everywhere, all the time, not talking, not smiling, just hovering. I let my eyelids droop in that way, like I can’t even stand to look at you, you make me so tired.

What do you want, Froggy?”

He shrugged, staring down at me. His nose was bony and huge.

“Well, I’m kind of busy right now.” I tried to sound bored, but I was almost crying. My makeup was cat-eye glam, and if I cried, I was going to wind up looking like a panda. I bit the inside of my cheek and my throat stopped hurting. “So, unless you know how to get my history paper back, I don’t have time for social hour, okay?”

Froggy nodded. Then he unzipped the pocket on his backpack and took out a CD. “Get up.”

The CD was a burned copy of something, labeled in marker.

I sighed and gave him my chair. “What’s that supposed to do?”

“It’s an operating system. If you used a stable operating system, this wouldn’t happen.” When he slid the CD into the drive, a new screen came up. It was just a black window, full of slashes and random letters. “What folder were you saving it to?”

“I don’t know.”

“How can you not know where you were saving to? Okay, never mind. What was the name of the file?” He scowled at the screen, leaning close. “This would be easier if the temp folder wasn’t full of youtube downloads.”

I stared at the little black window. “It was just haylee_history, I think.”

“This is why I never use Windows machines. Okay.” Froggy hit a button and I was looking at my lost paper. “Is this it? If this is it, I’m going to print it now, before something goes haywire.”

I pulled on one of my extensions and nodded. I was missing my conclusion, but everything else was there. “Thanks,” I said, and it was awkward and weird. “You kind of just saved my life. Is there like something I could do to make it up to you?”

“Go with me to the fall dance.” He said it very fast, standing up and tripping over the chair. “I mean, I know it’s really short notice, but . . .”

I looked up at him. Behind us, my paper was humming off the printer. His hair was too short. His mouth was big enough to park a Lexus in. “Look, Froggy, do you really think I have nothing better to do on a Saturday night than go to a dance?”

He shoved his hands in his pockets. “So, you already have plans.”

“Well, yeah.” I pictured Tyler Strauss, how ace he looked in his Cobra Starship shirt. The Frog was standing in front of me, pathetic and slumped. The paper was worth 25% of our grade.

“Okay,” I said. “Okay, fine. For a little.”

****

The dress was shamrock green, back from when I was rocking the neon pink extensions, but it looked crap with my new ones, like I was trying too hard to match.

When Froggy showed up at 9:00, he was wearing a tie, and not an ironic one. “You look nice,” he said, and held the door for me.

In the car, he seemed faraway, like he was scared someone would touch him, which was weird. Touching was what boys mostly wanted. We didn’t talk much, but he played Elliott Smith and The Shins. It was different, but sort of nice, too. I didn’t hate it.

When we got to school, the gym was full of disco lights and confetti. As soon as we walked through the double doors, Jessica Butcher was on me, with her pink 80s prom dress and her green-and-platinum hair that was a total shameless copy of mine.

She smiled like she wanted to eat me. “Haylee, I thought you were over school functions.”

I shrugged, trying to act like I wasn’t out of place. Like I belonged there.

“That matchy-match dress/hair combo is boss. I mean, Marie Claire. Really.” She stared past me. “What is the Frog doing here?”

“He came with me,” I said, and my voice sounded cool and flat. Practically runway.

“Ooh—like accessorizing, right? Nerds are smexy!” But she was standing with her hands held out and her fingers spread, like the irony was dripping all over.

Next to me, Froggy was hugging himself, keeping his face turned away, and I missed him. I missed his music and his quiet car. I missed the boy in the computer lab who knew how to save me with six or seven keystrokes.

I turned my back on Jessica, looking up at Froggy. His eyes were tired and resigned, just starting to hurt. He smelled like gum, and I kissed him. Tyler always smelled like Cheetos and laundry, like because he was so insanely hot, he didn’t have to practice hygiene like the rest of us. Froggy was clean and soft and when he pulled back, it felt like I’d lost something. His mouth was warm. I wanted to keep kissing it.

Around us, everyone was whispering. Froggy stood in the middle of the gym with his arms held stiffly away from his body, like he didn’t know where to put them, like he couldn’t tell if I was making fun of him. If my kiss was supposed to save him—give him worth or dignity, it didn’t work. He wasn’t handsomer or better. He was just himself.

Something was happening to me, though. It had to be, because for the first time in months, Jessica wasn’t staring like she wanted to hijack my identity.

She was looking at me like I disgusted her. Like I could turn ugly just by touching Froggy Fergusen.

I grabbed him hard by the shoulders and did it again.

26 thoughts on “Green Queen

  1. Nice!

    (I’m also totally jealous that you’re done. I can’t believe how much I dislike frogs and golden balls and princesses and stories that are dumb.)

    How many stories in a row do you think you can end with a kiss? I think you should challenge yourself. 😉

  2. (I’m also totally jealous that you’re done. I can’t believe how much I dislike frogs and golden balls and princesses and stories that are dumb.)

    Haha–I get to laugh at you now (then you can show me just what’s up when Wednesday rolls around). Seriously, I started writing, and then realized I could think of very few ways to spin this. Also, I hate princesses.

    It’s funny, it occurred to me as I was posting that I hardly ever write kissing stories, ever, but somehow this is my second in a row, bring my total up to . . . three? But this is like, a better kiss. That last one was just gross.

  3. then realized I could think of very few ways to spin this. Exactly. And I don’t like it enough to do what I did with Snow White or something similar. Boo.

    Your best kiss was in your selkie story. For REAL.

  4. Your best kiss was in your selkie story. For REAL.

    Awww 🙂 (That was the third one I could think of. All build-up, baby!)

  5. The last dance I went to (8th grade formal, I was forced) I ended up going with a black-and-white dress that wouldn’t clash with cherry/fire engine colored hair.

    Haha, hot boys in neon who smell like Cheetos and laundry. I know…kind of a lot of those.

  6. You know, I like it. Because I didn’t want to like her, and I still don’t like her, but I think she’s okay somewhere down inside, underneath the teenage angst and neon hair colors. And I think she’ll turn out okay, like she’ll grow into a decent human being that isn’t all hormones and self concern. She reminds me of a whole lot of the kids I teach…you captured modern teenager very well.

  7. Honestly, I started out pretty much hating this character. (Which might explain why she occasionally seems to be parodying of herself.)

    I always have a hard time writing princesses, because imperiousness is such an unattractive quality in a person, but after I knocked around with this one awhile, it started to seem like any imperiousness was really just insecurity and the need for self-assertion, and it keeps getting in the way of her good aspects. So, I’ve forgiven her. 🙂 I really do think she’s a fundamentally decent person who just hasn’t come up with a foolproof way to express it yet.

  8. Red/black/white is a great color-scheme (I’m an impassioned advocate of color-schemes)!

    One of the ways I entertained myself in school was by making up corollaries, and I had one that said, basically, the more attractive a boy is (stylish-wise), the more likely he is to have unfortunate breath. I realize this is not scientific, and I don’t want to go around casting aspersions on stylish boys, but in my personal experience it often proves out.

  9. So many good comments and chatting here. I’m tired today, so I’ll only stay for one cup of tea. I love the kiss. I’m not one for princesses, but this one has potential. I feel cheated, I never had this teenage feeling. One day lets do lunch. Ponders plane fare. Cheers Simon.

  10. Oh, I love the way you twist, miss Brenna. This, however, does not count in the “Ways to Die” category.

  11. This, however, does not count in the “Ways to Die” category.

    I know, I know. I have to admit, I kind of expected that Tessa would figure out a way to pick up the slack on this one, but then she went and got all adorable with it. There’s always next week 🙂

  12. I feel cheated, I never had this teenage feeling.

    I arrived late to the public school party, so I suspect I missed a lot of the standard teenage stuff too. But then, that’s probably why it fascinates me so much 😀

  13. I spent about ten minutes trying after I read that originally the frog turns back into a man after the princess throws him against the wall. But revisions are killing me. Seriously. I feel your pain SO MUCH.

  14. after I read that originally the frog turns back into a man after the princess throws him against the wall

    I seriously entertained using that too, but I’d already kind of started liking Froggy and didn’t want anything bad to happen to him. Well, not physically, anyway. Emotionally of course, he was fair game.

    Revisions are hard.

  15. This makes us sadists: Emotionally of course, he was fair game.

    But this makes us masochists: Revisions are hard.

  16. I killed someone, Brenna, never fear. I had to stop this parade of happy frogness.

    That said, the Frog has excellent taste in music, or possibly he stole my car.

    And I like this one — cool how you stayed so faithful and yet completely spun it.

  17. the Frog has excellent taste in music, or possibly he stole my car.

    Excerpt from a conversation with D, which exposes my chronic inability to articulate a thought in real life:

    Me: I think he listens to the Shins.

    D.: So, you’re saying he’s a huge emo nerd.

    Me: No. Well, I mean, he’s a nerd, but I think that’s the point, but I wasn’t trying to like say anything, just that he listens to music.

    D.: You said he listens to Elliott Smith. And the Shins.

    Me: But . . . but . . . I just mean that he listens to music, and . . . damn it.

  18. Honestly, the fact that this story even came about is due entirely to “New Slang,” and D. owning every Elliott Smith album ever. Now, am I calling him a hypocrite? I didn’t say that.

  19. I love that I loved him from the start and hated her until the end. Maybe that makes me a pretentious non-conformist but I’ve always been lethally allergic to scene chicks and all they represent.

    I read the pre-cut part, clicked the link, and then saw the tag “frog prince” and kind of cringed tbh. I like not knowing what the prompt is a lot better. It wasn’t typical in anyway at all though even the bit about his huge pie-hole was clever in its own way.

    Babbling….I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  20. The tags are interesting, because they’re ostensibly there so that we (or readers) can find stuff after the fact—or, when we do a shared prompt, compare our different treatments of the story.

    HOWEVER, unlike Tess and Maggie, when I write a retelling, it almost always winds up completely unrecognizable, so tags are often either spoilery, or just really confusing.

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