“Aha! There you are!” Littlefoot lunged at her tiny garden shoes, which had been hiding under her red coat, which had fallen off the peg just inside the front door.
Still bent over to pick them up, she received a thump on the bottom when Kindra flung the door open.
“But Kindra,” pled a man’s voice.
“Go away,” said Kindra. “You are not invited in. We’re through.”
Behind the door, Littlefoot cheered silently.
“But Kindra, it wasn’t me. I swear.”
“Yeah right. They caught you.”
“I told you. I was just going for a walk.”
“In the middle of the night. Right outside the house where that woman woke up to someone kissing her.”
Kindra closed the door, revealing Littlefoot, who smiled sheepishly. After flashing an “I-don’t-want-to-hear-an-I-told-you-so” look, Kindra flounced to her room. Bron pounded on the front door.
“You heard her,” Littlfoot yelled. “She doesn’t want you here. Go away.”
Littlefoot had her garden shoes on now, but wanting to wait to go out until Bron was far away, she went to the kitchen and poured herself a cup of water from the pitcher. She drank it sip by sip.
A feeble knock. Littlefoot didn’t care that it sounded repentant.
Instead of Bron, Littlefoot heard the sound of an old woman’s voice.
“I’m selling apples, dear.”
Littlefoot hurried to the door and opened it. “I’m so sorry. I thought you were someone else.” She peered down the path to the right and saw Bron’s backside halfway to the turn toward town.
Littlefoot had plenty of apple trees out back, but the old woman was so disfigured that Littlefoot worried no one would buy from her.
“I’ll take twelve.” She retrieved some coins from the secret box in her room and made the exchange. But the old woman didn’t walk away.
“They’ll be the most delicious apples you’ve ever tasted. Try a bite and tell me they’re not.”
“I’m sure they are.”
“Just a little bite. I want to see how much you enjoy them.”
So Littlefoot took a small bite. And when she did, the old woman cackled and changed. Her nose straightened and her mouth untwisted and just as Littlefoot started to feel woozy, she recognized Asher’s mother.
“Spinach and chard,” Littlefoot swore just before she hit the floor.
She awoke to Bron’s face an inch above hers.
“Aw, seriously?” she said.
At the sound of Bron’s voice, Kindra barged in. “I told you to get – what’s going on?”
Littlefoot kicked an indignant Bron out, told Kindra about Asher’s mother, and repeated the story when Benedella came home.
“What are you going to do?” Benedella asked.
“I don’t know that I can do anything. Asher won’t talk to me, and he wouldn’t believe me anyway. I’ll just have to be more careful, and when Asher gets a girlfriend, I won’t be a target anymore.”
Kindra gasped. “I just thought of something.”
The girls waited.
“Every spell Asher’s mother has cast has had the same cure. A kiss.”
“If I can go to Asher’s back property and find that frog with the little crown and kiss him, maybe I’ll score myself the Prince of Grimmston.”
Benedella folded her arms. “Are you seriously making this about you? Littlefoot is a witch’s target.”
“Sorry. It was just a thought.”
“It’s okay,” said Littlefoot. “There’s nothing we can do about me anyway.”
“Do you want to come with me while I look for the frog? You can try to talk to Asher.”
“No,” Benedella said. “Littlefoot should stay far away from that place.”
“Well we’re not letting her go alone,” said Littlefoot.
“She doesn’t need to go at all. The chances that that frog is the Prince of Grimmston and that a kiss will turn him back are miniscule. Not to mention how hard it would be to find him after all these months.”
Kindra looked back and forth between them.
“Oh no,” Benedella said. “Not that smile.”
Kindra ran for her coat.
“Well, I’m not letting her go alone,” Littlefoot said, and followed Kindra out the door.
“Oh, wait for me!” called Benedella.
They veered into the woods well before Asher’s candy-covered house.
“Look for water,” Kindra suggested. She wanted to split up, but Benedella insisted they stay together.
“It’s getting dark,” Benedella said much later. “This is futile. We need to-”
“Look!” Kindra hopped over tree roots and ferns to a clear pond. She pointed to a tiny castle made of rocks, sticks, and bits of cloth.
“No way,” said Littlefoot. She let Kindra approach the castle alone.
Kindra crouched down. “Hello? Prince? My name is Lady Kindra.”
Benedella rolled her eyes.
“I think I know how to change you back to a human.”
There was no movement in or near the castle.
“I need to kiss you.”
A little becrowned frog hopped tentatively onto the fake drawbridge. Kindra cupped her hands and the frog hopped into them. She gave it a cheerful, unflinching kiss. Immediately, Kindra’s hands were pinned to the ground by the feet of a stark naked man with a tiny crown on his head. He leaped off her hands and plucked a fern to cover himself.
“Lady Kindra, how can I ever repay you?”
“First, you can tell the witch’s son how this happened,” Kindra said, nodding at Littlefoot, “and the rest I’ll tell you later.”
“Excuse me,” Littlefoot said to the prince. “Did you make that castle while you were a frog? That’s amazing!”
“So much for their romantic moment, Littlefoot,” said Benedella.
“Oh, sorry. But don’t you think it’s amazing?”
“Thank you,” said the prince. “And now to fulfill the first request of my betrothed.”
“Oh!” Kindra clapped her hand to her heart and unabashedly took the prince’s fern-free hand.
Littlefoot thought it might be more romantic for Kindra if she and the prince led the way to Asher’s house, but she also didn’t think it was appropriate for her to see her sister’s future husband’s backside, so she carefully walked off to the side. When they got to the house, Asher hurriedly offered clothes to the prince, and the prince told his story.
“I’m sure,” he said to Asher’s mother, “that it was an accident. But the last thing I remember is that you said, ‘Grimmston castle won’t accept my candies,’ and I sampled your green divinity. And now,” he added jovially, “Lady Kindra and I will send word to the castle to send a carriage and we will go pack her belongings.”
And hand in hand, they left.
“Come on, Littlefoot,” Benedella said.
They let Kindra and the prince have a head start and then followed the path home.
Littlefoot laughed sadly. “I always thought you’d be the first to go.”
Littlefoot’s heart jumped.
“- it won’t be long for me, either. I’ve had to keep it a secret, but the king of Hanbury-”
“Yes. He’s asked me to marry him.”
Littlefoot couldn’t breathe. “I didn’t even know you had met him.”
“I’m sorry, Littlefoot.”
“Nonsense. It’s wonderful.”
Littlefoot asked questions about Arthur and his secret courtship all the way home, where they chatted with the enjoyable prince of Grimmston while Kindra packed what things she could.
When there was a knock at the door, Littlefoot excused herself from the conversation and opened it. Asher hadn’t made eye contact with her while the prince made his accusations, so she had not expected to see him later in the night. Maybe ever.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Can you ever forgive me?”
“Of course. She’s your mom. It’s okay.”
“Oh thank God,” he breathed, hugging her. She wasn’t sure she’d ever hugged him before. And certainly not like this. “So,” he said. “Kindra’s getting married.”
“Yep. Benedella too.”
“What? He’s marrying them both?”
“No, bean boy. Benedella’s marrying someone else. It’s a secret, though.”
“So you’ll be here all alone?”
“Mmm hmm.” She tried to look like she was okay with it. She was independent. Resourceful.
“I’m sorry,” he said, pulling her into another hug.
“You know,” he said, “I might be looking for a place to stay, soon. I’m not sure how safe it is to live with a witch. Do you think you could live with someone who buys bogus beans and calls his best friend a liar?”
“I’d have to think it over,” Littlefoot said. She kissed him on the nose, closed the door halfway, and said, “Good night.”