Summary:18 year old Lauren Dwyer’s life takes a serious turn when she meets a magical trickster. A serial fairy tale about a girl and a frog- No, not that one- not that one at all.
1. The Pixie and the Frog
“Portia, will you just pick a suit already?” Lauren whined again, as she cursed whatever force in the universe made her mother fall for Paul Gauguin last year, thereby creating the new blended family Lauren was now a part of- a family that included one Portia Gauguin, drama queen, cheerleader, shopping addict, and Lauren’s current problem.
“Just because you don’t take pains with your appearance doesn’t mean that I can’t,” Portia replied with a pout as she came out of the changing room. You see, Portia had an irrational need for a new bikini before her trip to Hera Lake- a last fling with her A-list high school friends before they all went off to college in different cities. And, Portia couldn’t decide between pink and forest green. “Ooo- that one’s nice, too,” she added, spotting one that almost got away and pulling her size from the rack. It was white.
“You’re gonna have the car for a week starting tomorrow, while I’m seeing my dad- can’t you come back without me? I just wanted some soy nut butter from the health food store. My shopping took three minutes- yours is taking my entire life. And I have Screaming Vaginas tickets- they don’t tour very often what with the house arrests and the pregnancies and all. And, Jane on Fire is opening- too cool- but I’m never gonna get there if you don’t pick a swimsuit so we can leave the frickin’ mall.” Lauren still needed to drive Princess Portia, the annoying, home so she could have the car and go pick up Troy, who had the concert tickets, and maybe get there before the lead singer of the other opening act, The Flaming Banshees, was completely naked.
“Why’d you invite me along if you were in a hurry?” Portia called from inside the dressing room stall.
“I didn’t,” Lauren reminded her, “Your dad made me take you. Don’t you have like six other swimsuits?”
“Those are poolside suits- concrete. I’m looking for lakeside suits- natural surroundings- the background is completely different,” she reasoned. “I like this one.” She emerged modeling a white swimsuit, which would undoubtedly be all but see-through if it ever saw water.
“Great! Get it and let’s go.”
“Anybody ever tell you that you shop like a guy, Lauren?”
“Anybody ever tell you that you’re a walking stereotype, Portia?”
Lauren wasn’t hung-over. No, she wasn’t. Really. She wasn’t hung-over because, at eighteen-years-old, she wasn’t legal to drink. So, there was no way that she’d gotten smashed at the concert last night, and so she hadn’t thrown up in her stepfather’s rose garden and she didn’t have a shattering headache and she wasn’t queasy beyond the telling of it. Really. So, when Portia dropped something that was overly thuddy and then something else that was highly clangy, she didn’t sit up, curse a blue streak and then run to the toilet to heave up nothing- because her body wasn’t protesting her changing position so very quickly.
“Have a nice time with Troy last night?” Portia asked her when she returned to their shared bedroom.
“Shh- not so loud.” Lauren crawled back under the covers resolving to never not get drunk like that ever again.
“Better go right back into the bathroom and clean up. Mom and Dad want to talk to us- I’m not allowed to leave for the lake until they do.”
All Lauren said as she threw back the covers to head for the shower was, “Ugh.” She was pretty sure that covered everything.
“Cupcake, Muffin, I’m glad you’re up, girls,” Paul, chirped out as Portia and Lauren came into the kitchen where he was cooking. Lauren hated when he used those stupid foody names for them. Of course, Portia loved being called Cupcake, but then she was a freak of shallowness from any angle. “Want some pancakes, Muffin?” he offered, raising the pan to show them to Lauren.
“Ugh- no thanks, Paul,” Lauren groaned. “Where’s Mom? I thought you guys wanted to yell at us.”
“Your mother had a work emergency, she had to go. She asked me to apologize for her,” Paul told them as he fixed a plate of pancakes and set it in front of Lauren anyway.
“No she didn’t, but it’s nice of you to fake it for her,” Lauren retorted.
“You don’t know that. Her emergency could have been really important,” Portia defended. Portia was always defending people who didn’t deserve it- it irked Lauren that her stepsister seemed to like being treated like crap.
“Cupcake, Muffin- girls- please don’t bicker,” Paul scolded them in that non-scolding way he had. “I’m afraid, I have some bad news. Lauren, your father called last night. He’s sorry, but he had something come up. He can’t make this week with you, but he promised to reserve Thanksgiving just for you.”
“Lovely,” Lauren responded. He was such a damn let-down, her father. Never there, but at least he was consistent about it. She hadn’t really had her hopes up this time. Really.
“So, where is she supposed to go while they put in the new wiring?” Portia asked.
“Ah yes- that’s why we didn’t want you to leave until she was awake-”
“Oh no!” Lauren interrupted. “I’m not going to bimbo camp with Portia this week.”
“Lauren!” Portia exclaimed in a reproving tone.
“I’m sorry, Muffin, there wasn’t any way to make provisions for you to come with your mother and me on such short notice. They’re your classmates, too. I’m sure you’ll have a great time once you get there,” Paul assured her from his position in Happy-joy-everything’s-fine-land.
“It’ll be fun, Lauren,” Portia coaxed, pulling on her arm, “I’ll help you pack- help you coordinate your outfits.”
“I don’t coordinate my clothing- it’s against my religion.”
“Come-on, grumpy, you can borrow from my closet,” Portia offered.
“Dear lord, does the torture never end?”
The big house by Lake Hera was pretty and Victorian and loud. There was rap music blaring when they got there and several barely dressed girls were happily being chased all over the dirt drive by a couple of brainless jocks with a hose. They previously might have been attempting to wash the car that they were now using as cover in their water fight, but it didn’t look in any way clean. One of the lunkheads, one Lauren recognized as Portia’s boyfriend, Terry Jupiter- he was carrying a bucket and chasing a shrieking girl- Lauren didn’t remember her name- Melody, Melanie, Melanoma- something like that. Miss M raced past the car as Lauren got out. Lauren turned to find her pursuer so she could avoid becoming part of all the asinine fun, but she wasn’t quite fast enough and- well it was a good thing she didn’t care what she looked like to these people anyway. Even the car’s interior didn’t escape Terry’s phenomenal aim.
“Oh- my bad,” he said by way of apology. “Hey, Lauren, with your hair all wet like that and the sunlight just so on your face, you look kinda like a drowned rat,” he laughed before going round the car to where Portia was stepping out of the driver’s side. “Hey, Bitch, come here and kiss me,” Terry lewdly ordered Portia- and Portia complied. Lauren sloshed into the house wishing that she didn’t have a week of that to look forward to.
Lauren passed the week hermiting herself away from the overloud partying inside the house by staying out by the lake at night- there was one canoe in the boathouse that wasn’t too hard to sleep in- once she’d brought a couple of sleeping bags out there. Then she passed her days hidden in the room she shared with Portia- writing angst poetry and catching up on her reading. She made it through the Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing and was half way done rereading with The Bell Jar by the time the last day dawned. She wasn’t so much trying to be antisocial- most of the people there she could usually take, even with all the partying- it was more that she was avoiding Terry and “Terry ‘n’ Portia”, but mostly Terry. She was so tired of watching Portia take Terry’s misuse of her, tired of listening to Portia excusing his behavior because she couldn’t admit what an ass her boyfriend was, tired of beating her head against that same set of bricks.
On the last day, Lauren was amazed to learn that they were finally out of booze, and even more amazed to find out that there were no more beer runs planned. “The last night is always dry, Lauren. That way nobody drives home drunk or hung-over,” Portia told her.
“Wow- that is actually a smart idea. Whose was it?” Lauren asked, picking her way through the kitchen that was still scattered with the night before’s party detritus (they were on lunch duty and try as she might, Lauren couldn’t get out of it without really pissing off Portia).
“Terry and I thought it up.” Portia opened the fridge and started pulling out random take-out containers.
“You mean, you did and Terry is taking the credit for it.” Lauren opened a cabinet and started looking for clean dishes. It was empty, save for a potato masher.
“It’s not important who thought of it- everyone getting home alive is the important thing.” More take-out was followed by the ever present hot sauce that the lunkheads wanted on everything.
“So, what do you do for fun on the dry night? Orgy?” Lauren tried another cabinet. This one was full of empty beer cans and candles.
“No! Lauren, you’re sick. We have a scavenger hunt. It’s a kick. Tammy works for weeks to get the lists just right.” She took out a large plastic bowl and started dumping the take-out cartons into it, one after the other.
“Ooo, running around the woods all night looking for poison ivy leaves sounds like the bestest fun ever! Count me out, thank you.” Lauren found a big stack of paper plates in the next cabinet- all of them had great big smiley faces drawn on them. Scratch that, just the top ones had faces- the rest had other parts of the anatomy.
“Oh, but Lauren, you have to. We go in pairs and without you someone won’t have a partner.” Portia dumped half the bottle of hot sauce into the bowl and put it in the microwave.
“Portia, I could care less if one of these brainless wonders has to sit out the big clam bake. I’m not in.” The artistically styled plates were clean enough for anyone willing to eat Portia’s cooking, so Lauren walked over and put them out on the table. There, she’d done her part for lunch.
“I’m not in. Accept it.”
“Come on, please,” Portia whined.
“Pretty please, with a cherry on top,” Portia dined.
“I’ll be your best friend,” she sing-songed.
“You can have the car for the rest of the summer,” Portia wheeled.
“That’s three days- No.”
“Cold hard cash,” Portia dealed.
“No,” Lauren laughed.
“Aww, you’re no fun.”
“Is there nothing I can offer to convince you to be cool and do this?” Portia asked.
“N- wait- yes, yes there is. You can break up with Terry.”
“Think about it, you’re going to different schools and there is no way he is gonna keep his hands to himself- he cheated on you last summer and you were only apart for a week.”
“Why do you keep holding that one mistake against him?”
“Why don’t you?”
“Seriously, you don’t really think he’s good for you, do you?”
“Uh-” Portia bit her lip, trying to lie without actually lying- Portia tried not to lie- she was a good girl.
“My point, exactly. Portia, I’ll be part of your snipe hunt if you promise to consider what’s really good for you because dating Terry really isn’t.”
“Okay, but no promises. He’s such a good kisser.”
There was no way that Lauren could have not gotten partnered up with Terry for the scavenger hunt- one has to pay the piper and sometimes one has to prepay the piper- so, when their names were picked out of the hat together, Lauren just let out a sigh of acceptance. Complaining would only have wasted time.
The sound woke Tris from a heavy slumber- the kind of bone-deep, years-long, best moss covered hollow log type of nap that Tris really enjoyed. It was the kind of nap that he only got maybe once in a century, so being suddenly awake in what should have been the middle of his nap made him very, very grumpy, which was not a good thing for those who made him grumpy.
The sound of them- they were humans, Tris could tell- the sound of them arguing came closer.
The male voice was loud enough to hush all the night animals for twice the distance that Tris could throw a rotten onion in a stench-putting match (he’d been a champion back in the old days). “Nobody but Portia and Tammy actually does the hunt- the rest of us usually mess around in the woods all night.”
“So, why do you all keep agreeing to it each year? Is Portia a joke to you all?” The female voice was not so loud, but still managed to grate on Tris like a bad kevil sting on a hot summer’s day.
“No, it’s more like the two of them get off on it so much nobody wants to piss on their parade, so we do it.”
“So, you guys only sort of suck as their friends- you lie to them, but only to make them happy.”
“Come on- that’s what people do all the time. It’s what guys have to do to keep a girl.”
“Lying isn’t what you have to do to keep a relationship going- it’s what messes them up. Honesty is what makes people able to have decent relationships.”
“That’s bullshit. You can’t tell me that you really want some guy who’s gonna tell you everything he thinks about everything- about you? Nah- no girl wants to hear what she really looks like on her bloated, breaking out, bad hair days. You know what your real problem is, girl?”
“That boys like you think they have the right to call me girl,” the female snapped.
“No. It’s that you never been with real man, one who’ll make you know your place, and that makes you think your place is any damned where you please, and it ain’t,” the male answered.
By his way of mind, Tris thought that the both of them were pretty uppity and he resolved to have a little fun- er- teach them a lesson. He popped himself out from his hollow log (which promptly fell in on itself and crumbled to dust, a hundred years catching up with it at once now that it didn’t have the pixie’s attention holding it together) and Tris pushed a little confounding spell on the pair of mortals.
For the next ten minutes, no matter which way they wandered through the wood, they found themselves back at the little circle of stones that was centered on Tris’ former hollow log (Tris didn’t intentionally create the magic rings- they just tended to form around places he spent any appreciable amount of time in).
“God-frickin’-dammit!” the male cursed as he stumbled over the stone ring for what had to be the fourth time. This time, he fell flat and Tris could see that he had wrenched his ankle.
“Terry, you big klutz! I will seriously beat you if you broke your ankle!” the female threatened and Tris thought this terribly rude. It was one thing for him, a pixie, old as dirt and twice as musty, to enjoy the smell of sufferings of a mortal injured by his design. It was quite another for one of his fellow humans to ignore his pain, to be so unsympathetic, to be angry at him for it.
Tris allowed himself to be seen, slowly fading in from his camouflaged state, letting his coloring turn from brown and mossy to pleasingly bright oranges and reds. The female saw him near to right away. She stared at Tris with unbelieving eyes.
“Damn, girl, I think it might be broken. Help me up,” the male, who was still on the forest floor and facing away from Tris demanded.
She didn’t move one whit, her eyes remaining tight to Tris.
“Lauren, come on. Help me,” he said again, but with less authority. Then he twisted himself around to look at what Lauren was so entranced by. “Jesus! What the hell is that thing?” He scrambled around on the ground and found himself a dead branch. He pulled himself up by it. “Don’t worry, Lauren. I’ll kill it,” he promised and he shifted his weight enough that he could raise his former cane up and convert it by way of usefulness into a club.
“Uh- Terry,” the female said warily, “I don’t think you doing that is a good idea.”
“Oh and ye best be heeding the little girl’s words, me boy,” Tris advised the mortal.
“Like I’m going to listen to her,” he shrugged a shoulder in her direction. Then his head seemed to catch up with his mouth and he muttered a shocked, “You can talk? What the hell!” to Tris.
“Aye, I can speak. I can hear, too. So, you’d be doing yourself and that girl of yourn a world of good to put that down,” Tris counseled.
“Yeah, that’s what I should do- put down my only weapon.”
“Terry!” the female shouted this time, “we don’t know what that thing is. Don’t antagonize it!” And wasn’t that a fine how-do-you-do, her calling Tris an it. Such manners on these mortals.
Of course, then the male lunged forward with his ridiculous weapon, but clumsy with his mortal body and its injury, he failed to make contact before Tris popped himself behind the brute.
“Hey!” the male exclaimed when Tris stopped being where he’d aimed. “It’s gone.”
Tris chuckled and cast a spell. In truth, he didn’t plan to make it such a strong spell, but every now and again, the magic used Tris instead of Tris using the magic. Pink and Blue shimmers sparked around the inside of the stone circle settling first on one mortal and then the other. Then they screamed in tandem- awful, soul-deep painful wails that made Tris unsure if he should protectively cover his ears or his heart (he didn’t know which was in more danger from it). After just a few seconds, they fell silently to the mossy ground. Tris decided that he might just have an elsewhere to be and popped there quickly.
Lauren awoke with a killer headache. She was lying in the dark with forest noises all around her. She hurt all over, but most especially she hurt in her left ankle.
“Damn! What happened?” a gravelly woman’s voice asked. The voice was very familiar. It almost sounded like-
“Mom?” Lauren said and clutched her throat right away because that wasn’t her voice- it was- Shit! It was Terry’s voice. It wasn’t even Lauren’s own hand at her throat. And it wasn’t Lauren’s throat she was touching with her not-her-hand either, not unless she had suddenly grown stubble and an Adam’s apple!
“Shit! What the hell?” the woman’s voice said again and it clicked- that wasn’t her mom’s voice, it was her own. Which meant that-
“Terry?” Lauren said in Terry’s deep rasp. God, this was not happening. She scrambled in the leaves for the flashlight she’d had before. Not happening she repeated in her head. Not happening. She found it and switched it on. Not-
“Okay, this is not even- Lauren?” her own voice squeaked out. Sitting across from her was uh- her, her own body with someone else- probably Terry- at the controls. “God, you’re me,” probably Terry mumbled, reaching out toward Lauren as if to touch her- Terry’s- his own- okay, her current face.
Lauren closed her eyes (his eyes) and took some deep breaths. Maybe if she thought about it hard enough, when she opened her eyes everything would go back to normal. She waited another long moment and opened them up again. Her own face very angry face was still right there across from her. “Oh- not happening,” Lauren whispered again, but she didn’t believe it.
“It was that thing, wasn’t it- that red leprechaun thing? He did this didn’t he?” Terry looked down at Lauren’s body, a snarl on her face. He ran Lauren’s hands down her body, stopped the left one to squeeze a breast, and then moved them both lower. “Shit, I’m- I’m a goddamned girl!”
“Aye, and you’ll stay that way until I think you’ve learned a thing or two about respecting your betters,” called the red leprechaun thing from where he was suddenly hovering a good ten feet above them, just as the small section of woods around them was lit up as if by lightening.
“Come here you little troll!” Terry demanded. “Switch us back or I’ll-”
“No, I don’t think you will, my boy. And I don’t think I will either. Calling me such a name is decidedly not respecting your betters,” the red leprechaun thing said, tutting at Terry. “You’d better spend a fortnight or two like this.” The creature turned his attention to Lauren. She stood up on as he spoke, “And how about you, my dear? Might you want to make threats on my person, as well?”
“Uh- no. No, of course not. I’d never threaten one of my betters,” Lauren answered, still startled by the deep bass of her current voice. “And, I’d never even think to call you a troll.”
The red leprechaun creature smiled coyly and asked, “Aye, and what would you call me, then, a fine upstanding pixie like myself?”
“Uh,” Lauren hesitated- a pixie? All she could remember about pixie’s is that they were supposed to be much smaller than this being was- he was really about the size of a midget- er little person. “I’d call you sir,” she finished, proud of herself.
“Sir? That would suit just fin-”
“Hey!” Terry interrupted standing up and waving the stick he’d had earlier at the pixie, who just hovered a little higher to avoid it. “Hey, you little TROLL, change me back right friggin’ now!”
“I will change you back,” the pixie calmly assured him, “in a fortnight.”
Terry made another jump at the pixie as he yelled, “I don’t know how long that is, but it better be less than a minute or I’ll-”
But Lauren never got to find out what Terry would do to the pixie because at that moment, the hovering creature waved his hand at Lauren’s sort of snatched body, made three bouncy little hops with it and she- that is Lauren’s body flashed green and kind of spotted before it disappeared!
“Holy crap! What did you do?” she asked, forgetting to be respectful and stepping forward onto Terry’s injured ankle. She winced, but didn’t let herself fall.
“Oh,” the pixie shrugged, “He’s a frog.”
“Well, he was no prince, now was he? Go on, look down there and find him. Once you do I’ll switch you back,” the pixie told her.
Lauren fell back to her knees and then down on all fours to peer at the ground and find the frog that used to be her body. There he was. She reached Terry’s big hand out to pick him up, but at the last moment, it gave a great leap and was three feet out of her reach.
“Damn! Come back here, Terry,” she said, moderating the deep voice to a whisper so as not the spook him again. It didn’t work. As soon as she crawled after him he jumped again.
“So,” the pixie said from somewhere above her (she didn’t turn her head around so she didn’t lose sight of the frog). “I’ll just be going. Give a little whistle when you find him and I’ll set you to rights.” Then there was a whooshing sound and the light was gone.
Lauren cursed. She fumbled the still lit flashlight from where she’d left it on the ground. Once she had it, she shined it where she had last seen the frog. Luckily he was still there.
“Okay Terry, come on now. Come on and let me pick you up,” she sing-songed. “Then we can get the nice pixie to switch us back to normal and I can wake up.” She reached for him again.
The frog hopped away and, frantic, Lauren chased after it because- good gravy! It was Terry- sort of- it was Terry in Lauren’s body, which was now a small and green and – whoa- fast frog!
Her- uh- Terry’s big feet and extra long legs didn’t cooperate as Lauren tried to keep up with FrogTerry. He hopped under some ferns and by the time she could untangle herself enough to get there on the sore ankle, he had hopped over to that bush on the left. Once she got close to the bush and bent Terry’s freakishly long arms to pick him up, FrogTerry hopped further on still. Despite her working very hard, stupid Terry was getting more and more ahead of her. She chased and chased and fell and scraped both of Terry’s knees up, twisted the bad ankle again and again, bruised his nasty boy body all up until finally, she lost sight of StupidFrogTerry.
She searched for him for far longer than she had any reasonable expectation of finding a frog hopping around in an unfamiliar wood at night. Then, she searched a little longer because what else was she to do?
Eventually the pain in Terry’s ankle became too great for Lauren and she sat down on- and promptly fell off of- a moss covered log. And that was when the pixie showed up again. . . .
The Bell Jar was written by Sylvia Plath under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas.