Toad’s Mouth – Jenny Bridge

Most people stop believing in fairy stories long before they reach their thirties. But not Marjorie.
Even her closest friends had no idea that Marjorie’s head was full of whimsical images of princesses, fairies, spells and magic. For Marjorie was known to all as a down to earth, no
nonsense young woman. Tall, long limbed and sturdy, she had plodded through life, unwanted epithets trailing in her wake – capable, reliable, solid. Who would guess that she
longed to be willowy, mysterious, fey, romantic?
She had been popular at her all girls school, a willing confidant to stories of girlish forays into the world of love. She could always be relied on to offer a listening ear and a
comforting arm, for Marjorie, of course, had no interest in such ventures for herself. Or so everyone imagined.
Every winter she played hockey competently but not brilliantly and in the summer she was in demand as a handy, though not spectacular, tennis partner. She excelled at cooking,
following recipes with meticulous accuracy and producing consistent, if not creative, dishes. Inevitably, she progressed to college, qualifying as a teacher of domestic science
and returning to her old school where she could continue her life almost as it had always been.
Her mother was a little sad that Marjorie seemed unlikely to marry but contented herself in planning extravagant weddings for her other three daughters. Her father heaved a sigh of
relief that he would not have to foot yet another immense bill.
Her favourite aunt, who described herself rather inaccurately as a maiden aunt, expressed her opinion that Marjorie would make an excellent vicar’s wife and a real pillar of some
fortunate parish. But Marjorie knew no vicars and had little inclination to become a pillar of any sort.
So no one suspected that, as Marjorie went about her daily tasks, her mind wandered into unlikely realms. As she kneaded dough with strong muscular arms, she imagined she was
spinning straw into gold, thus earning the hand of a handsome king. As she brushed her mousey hair into its sensible bob, she dreamed of long golden tresses flowing out of her
bedroom window to await the tug of an ascending prince. Whenever she had a sleepless night she hunted for the pea that must be hiding under her mattress causing her to toss
and turn and proving that she was indeed a princess. When she did sleep her dreams were of the handsome prince who would surely appear one day and sweep her off her size
eight feet.
The announcement that a new teacher had been appointed and was both male and young resulted in a ripple of excitement amongst girls and staff. This was a rare happening in
their almost exclusively female establishment.
But, if like Marjorie, they had hoped for a handsome princely figure to stride into their midst, they were to be disappointed. Rowley was short in stature and somewhat rotund in
figure. There was a definite curve to his shoulders, his skin was a little swarthy and rather course and his eyes bulged rather. He was, however, a kind and jovial man with a huge
gaping smile and he quickly became a popular and competent member of staff. He and Marjorie gravitated towards each other, both being good sorts and neither being prone to
romantic desires. Or so it was thought.
In fact, Marjorie herself became a little surprised at how close they were, quite literally, becoming. Wherever she went Rowley seemed to appear at her side. She began to notice
too some strange lingering glances, a prolonged touch on her hand when they inadvertently brushed against each other.
Was he, she wondered, beginning to have feelings for her? If he was, she would certainly not be returning them. She was still waiting for her handsome prince and Rowley was no
One day during the summer term, Marjorie, finding herself with some free time, wandered off to the tennis courts to practise her serves. She had agreed to partner the maths
teacher in a staff versus students tournament and didn’t want to let the side down. After a short while, she became uncomfortably aware that she was being watched, although she
could see no one. Her embarrassment caused her serves to become erratic and she lost several balls. So when her very last ball soared over the netting and landed in a nearby
muddy ditch with an undignified plop, she was uncharacteristically distraught.
The silent watcher suddenly crashed out of the bushes running with greater speed than elegance towards the ditch. It was, of course, Rowley.
Wading into the thick murkiness of the ditch he bent and retrieved the ball holding it high above his head in triumph.
Marjorie watched as he muddily stumbled towards her still holding the tennis ball as if it were some precious golden orb. He stopped close beside her and looking at her
with his wide red smile he demanded his prize.
Marjorie regarded him with horror, realising that he expected a kiss. How could she kiss this great gaping mouth. Why he looked like a toad!
Suddenly Marjorie realised that this was just what he was – a toad. Surely she had only to kiss him and he would become her handsome prince.
Bracing herself she moved closer and pressed her lips against his.
She had to admit that it was rather an enjoyable experience but when it was over Rowley had not changed one bit.
Devastated, she burst into tears and finding herself cradled in Rowley’s arms confessed her dreams for the first time in her life.
Amazingly, instead of ridicule or anger Rowley expressed understanding and concern. He held Marjorie close stroking her and murmuring as she sobbed and talked. By the time the
bell rang marking the end of afternoon school Marjorie felt strangely content. She realised that she did not want to leave Rowley’s arms – ever.
Their wedding a few months later was simple and well organised – perfect for such a no nonsense couple. If Marjorie had any regrets about the lack of golden carriages, glittering
crowns and towering castles they did not diminish her joy. For, as she glanced at her new husband after the ceremony admiring his tanned skin, his large loving eyes and his
comfortable, comforting figure, she knew that she had indeed found her handsome prince


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