The Frog Prince by Jane Porter
By SMW Staff
Holly Bishop is the proverbial, small-town good girl. She always follows the rules, thinks of others first, and she never, ever makes mistakes. Until she marries the man she thought was her Prince Charming, who confesses on their honeymoon that he’s not sexually attracted to her. Now, 14 months later, Holly’s marriage is in the toilet, along with her self-esteem. Determined to start over, she moves to San Francisco, where she must navigate the landmines of dating in the big city. In the shadow of the Golden Gate and amid a population of wacky Bay Area eccentrics, Holly will discover that nice girls don’t always finish last. In fact, they sometimes end up with everything they’d ever wanted.
Here comes the bride, all dressed in white. There goes the groom, running from the room…
And there’s my single mom, spending the next twenty years paying for a lavish wedding that didn’t even last a year.
What happens now? What happens when you’ve had the fairytale?
When you’ve done the big wedding? The dream honeymoon? What happens after the fantasy’s over?
You file for divorce. Di-vorce. Such a big concept for what amounts to a little word.
I still can’t quite say it, can’t feel anything when I think it, can’t imagine that we’re now talking about me.
But I was the one in the wedding gown, and then I was the one talking to a lawyer, and I was the one who had to ask my brother and my girlfriends and their boyfriends to help me pack so the movers could move me.
I’ve recently changed cities. Jobs. Lives. I’m starting all over again. But of course it’s not the same. It’ll never be the same. Because I’ve done it. I’ve been married and divorced and I’m not even twenty-six.
Long and short of it? He was perfect. I was raised in the country; he was French, together that made us French Country. Perfect. The house was perfect, the car, a smoky gray Citron, was perfect, the clothes and restaurant and champagne…perfect, perfect, perfect! He even respected me.
Hindsight’s amazing. I can see now there were problems in our relationship, huge problems, like trust, respect, and sexual compatibility. I should have known Jean-Marc wasn’t attracted to me. I should have known he was avoiding physical intimacy. But I didn’t. I blamed it on the wedding, new financial commitments, the stress of me moving into his house.
Maybe if I’d dated more…
Maybe if I’d had more realistic expectations…
Maybe if I hadn’t read fairy tales and then later all those romances I bought at the used bookstore…
But back to reality, and I’ve got more than enough to deal with in reality, what with my new job, in my new apartment, in my new city, with my new boss who doesn’t seem to approve of anything I do.
In fact, right now, my new boss Olivia Dempsey is standing next to my desk at City Events here in San Francisco and she isn’t happy. She’s currently conveying her unhappiness in a very loud, crisp voice.
“I thought we talked about this,” Olivia says, fashionably slim, toned arms crossed. “You have to take charge of your life, Holly. You’re dying on the vine, girl.”
I don’t look up as I don’t want to hear this, at least not again, not so soon this week. Didn’t I just get the need-to-get-out-more pep talk on Monday?
“You were crying in the bathroom again, weren’t you?”
I open my mouth to deny it but she holds up a finger, and wags it in front of my face. “Oh no, no lying. No denying. And you weren’t just crying, you were sobbing.”
“I wasn’t sobbing.” I shoot her a disgusted look, because even the word sobbing is irritating, but I know my eyes are red.
Olivia leans down, puts her face in mine. “Sara heard you.” Sara being another member of Olivia’s team.
I’m beginning to think I’m not ever going to warm up to Sara. She tries too hard to get Olivia to like her.
“I’m over it,” I say, forcing a toothy grin and feeling absurdly like the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood. “See?”
“Hmmph.” Is all Olivia gives me, but Olivia has no idea how hard all this is for me. No one knows how hard this has been.
There are days I still don’t know how I manage to climb from bed and stagger into the shower, days where I still cry as I make coffee and try to apply mascara and eye liner between mopping up tears. It’s just that I’d barely gotten used to the idea of being a bride and now I’m a…divorcee…?
“You need to start getting out,” Olivia adds firmly, her tone no-nonsense. “It’s time for you to be pro-active, not reactive.”
Of course she’d think like this. She grew up immersed in the world of professional sports and everything to Olivia is about offense and defense. If Olivia were an athlete, she’d be a quarterback and a pitcher rolled up into one.
“I’m getting out,” I say, shifting uneasily, knowing that Olivia’s voice carries and I’m not particularly eager to have the rest of the staff hear my shortcomings. Again. “I’m here, aren’t I?”
It was supposed to be a joke but she doesn’t laugh. “This is work, Holly.”
Olivia rolls her eyes. She’s beautiful. Even when she rolls her eyes she looks sleek. Sexy. With the ultimate in DNA—Olivia’s mother is a former model, the blonde glossy type that graced the pages of Sports Illustrated, while her father dominated the Oakland Raider’s offense, a star wide receiver still talked about in hushed voices twenty years later–Olivia’s perfection. She modeled for two years in Paris but hated it, apparently modeling wasn’t challenging, as it did nothing for her mind.
“This is no social life,” she says, leaning against the edge of my desk, her long legs even longer in snug low- waisted trousers, her black cashmere turtleneck sweater cropped short enough to reveal two inches of flat, tone midriff.
I feel like a slice of Wonder bread. “I don’t need one.”
Her gray-green eyes narrow, squint. She looks at me hard, the same up and down sweep she gives decorated ballrooms before handing responsibility over to an underling. “You need something bad, girl.”
Yes. I need my bed with my duvet pulled up over my head, but it’s only Wednesday and I have two more days before I get to dive back between my covers and stay there for the rest of the weekend. “Am I not performing?” I ask, trying to shift the focus from personal back to professional. Olivia was the one that hired me three months ago. She’d be the one that’d fire me.
Another narrowed gaze inspection. “You’ve lost your…edge.”
Edge? I don’t remember having an edge. I was desperate when I interviewed for the job, but there never really was an edge. I mentally add ‘Get Edge’ to my increasingly lengthy to-do list.
“You need attitude,” she continues. “Presence.”
I say nothing because quite frankly, I do have an attitude and I suspect it’s not the one she wants.
“What do you do when you go home, Holly?” Olivia’s fine arched brows beetle. “Sit down in front of the t.v—”
“Eat your way through a bag of chips? A carton of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey?”
“I don’t even like Chunky Monkey.”
Olivia is gaining momentum. Her purple black polished nails tap-tap the laminate on my desk. Her stellar eyebrows flatten. “You’re getting fat.”
The word fat hangs there a moment between us, pointed, sharp. Ugly. This is a full-scale assault.
For a moment nothing comes to mind and I inhale hard, topple forward in my chair, feet clattering to stop my fall.
I check to see if anyone else has heard. This is about as low as anyone could go. She knows it. I know it. “I’m not fat.”
Surreptitiously I glance down at my lap, honing in on my thighs. They do look rather big, but that’s because I’m wearing speckled wool pants, and the fuzzy spotted texture isn’t exactly slimming. “My clothes fit fine.”
Olivia shrugs. Says nothing.
I feel all hot on the inside, hot and prickly and a little bit queasy. I move my right thigh, check the shape. It does look rather spread out on the chair. “I need to work out,” I add, awkwardly. “I haven’t joined a gym since moving here.”
She shrugs again and I look up, see my lunch still sitting on my desk. A half-eaten burrito, guacamole and sour cream oozing, obscuring the chicken and black beans. I can picture my leg naked. Or what it must look like naked if I ever looked at myself in a full-length mirror anymore because I avoid mirrors, especially full-length mirrors. I haven’t taken a look at myself naked in oh…three months…ever since I moved to San Francisco and realized I couldn’t bear to look me in the eye, couldn’t bear to see what I—once so pathetically hopeful—had become.
But beyond the burrito and the mirror, it’s not all bad. I still drink diet-coke. I’ve always drunk diet-coke. There are limits to indulgence and I know mine.
“The point is,” Olivia says more delicately, “You go straight home after work. You sit on your couch. Veg in front of the t.v. That’s no life, and you know it.”
For a moment I say nothing, because I’m not even thinking about my new apartment in San Francisco, but the house I’d left in Fresno where until recently I’d been a spanking new wife.
The house in Old Fig Garden was originally Jean-Marc’s house, a 1950’s ranch that looked cozy and cottagey with a split rail fence and hardy yellow summer roses. After we married I couldn’t wait to make the house mine, too, and I loved personalizing it, adding festive, feminine touches like the new cherry sprigged dishtowels from bridal shower one hanging on towel bars in kitchen, or the sparkly crystal vase with zinnias and yellow roses displayed on Jean-Marc’s dining table. We had new 300 thread count sheets on the king bed and fluffy white and blue towels in the bathroom and it was like a dollhouse. Charming. Warm. Storybook.
Turns out I wasn’t the storybook wife.
Olivia’s impatience cuts and I look up quickly, so quickly I have to bite my lip to keep the rush of emotion away.
“You moved here to start fresh.” Olivia taps her nail on my desk. “So do it.”
Olivia’s right. I’m lonely as hell, but I’ve hit the place where its not just a little lonely but really lonely. The lonely where you slide below the radar screen, lonely where you’ve become pathetic, lonely where it’s better to just stay inside, hidden from civilization.
I don’t belong in civilization. I’m a misfit. A blight.
Well, maybe not a blight. But I definitely feel like a pimple on a chin. As you know, not a good way to feel.
Cautiously I shift my left leg, checking to see if the left thigh spreads as much as the right. It does. I suppress the rising panic. I’m in trouble, aren’t I?
I look up, meet Olivia’s eyes. “I am a little…big…ger.”
The light of battle shines in Olivia’s eyes. “It’s not the end of the world. Yet.” She sounds crisp now, decisive, as if we’ve settled on a plan, and she leans forward, urgency in her voice. “The key is to get a grip. Face whatever it is you’re avoiding.” She pauses, considers me. “Are you still in love with him?”
Him? Him, who? And then I realize she’s talking about Jean-Marc. “Y–no. No,” I repeat more forcibly because I’m not. How could I still be in love with a man that essentially rejected me on our honeymoon?
But Olivia isn’t convinced. “Do you need professional help? There’s no shame—”
“No.” God, this is so humiliating. Olivia could be my mother. My mother would handle a conversation this way. “I’m fine. I’m…better. Getting better.” And bigger, according to Olivia. I squeeze out a smile. “But you’re right. I need to take charge. Join a gym. Take better care of myself.”
What else? I thought that was really good stuff.
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