By Brenda Anderson
Brad wept frog tears. The instant he’d checked □ pools and □ girls, Dream Dates had turned him into a frog and dumped him here, beside this chocolate pool. His green skin itched like crazy under the midday sun. What girl would look twice at a frog?
A single arm, hacked off just below the shoulder, broke the surface of the pool. The chocolate left streaks on the still-pink flesh. Brad blinked. A single leg broke the surface at the furthest edge of the pool. He gulped. This was no chocolate pool. Individual body parts? It had to be Army Replacements. Only they ran immersion tanks like this: nutrient-rich pools for body parts, grown to order. Brad studied the reinforced perimeter fence shimmering in the sunshine. Yep, definitely the Army.
He should surrender right now before they shot him, stepped on him, or whatever else the Army did to intruder frogs. Brad leaked more tears.
The warm breathy voice made him leap and spin round. A girl in a long, silvery dress crawled towards him, wearing a sparkling tiara. She reached out to touch him. He edged away. Was this some escaped nutcase? Army Recruitments?
“So nice to meet you. I’m Olivia.” She flashed a dazzling smile. If only he weren’t a frog.
He waved a webbed front leg. “I’m Brad. You’re with Dream Dates?”
Olivia nodded. “I checked □ princess, □ chocolate and □ pool. Look, they matched us here, together. I get to kiss you now, right?”
Oh God, if only he weren’t a frog. She did sound ditzy, though. How was he going to wriggle out of this one? Maybe let her down gently. “Smart work, getting past the perimeter fence. I heard they don’t like intruders.”
She sniffed. “D’uh, the guards let me through. All princesses get Lifetime Pool Membership, but they did tell me to keep a low profile. 1.5 metres from the ground, something about security. Hey, I’m poolside with you, froggy. How about a dip?”
Swimming with dismembered body parts, breast-stroking in her chocolate? No thanks. He tried to edge away. She giggled. “How about skinny dipping?”
His eyes bulged.
She grinned. “Brad baby, settle down. I’ll strip and get into that wonderful pool.”
“No! Seriously, it could give you extra bits.” Brad eyed his own four fingers. He was minus a digit, himself, and his skin felt like old cardboard. He edged closer to the pool. To hell with it, he needed liquid and fast.
Olivia reached for him but he leapt free and sailed up in the air. Zip, an arm rose from the pool and caught him. Hefting him high, the arm bobbed up and down. Brad breathed easier. At least the choc-sticky hand supplied him with much-needed moisture. A head bobbed up, that of a young girl, her mouth pouting, her wide-set blue eyes blinking at him.
Such a cute smile.
“Hey, cool disguise.” Her voice felt like balm on a hot day. “I’m impressed.”
This was more like it. “I’m Brad.”
“Beatrice. Call me Bea.”
“Bra—a---ad.” Behind him, Olivia’s voice rose to a shriek.
“That’s your girlfriend? Ok …ay.” Bea sounded amused. “Brad, that arm is going to go under any minute. Could we hook up sometime later? We should be out of here in a month.”
“Reconnected, with the rest of my body, you know.” Under the chocolate he could swear she blushed. “Then I’ll be back in uniform, ready for deployment.”
At last, his big chance. “So, how about a date?”
She grinned. “What’s your girlfriend going to say about that?”
Brad thought hard. “She was just leaving. About that date?”
“Mmm. Let’s say, Bar ‘n Grill, Main Street, 7pm, a month from today. But how will I recognise you? You won’t be in disguise, I guess.”
Please God, no.
In the background, Olivia’s wail changed to a scream.
“Well, wouldn’t you know, the gardeners are back.” Bea gave an exclamation. “Look at that. They’re spraying the ground. Ooh, you’re right. She is leaving, at speed. Wait, she’s dropped her tiara. They’re calling her back … too bad, she’s gone. Well, Brad, I’ll be seeing you.”
Her adorable head sank back into the chocolate, and didn’t come up again. The dismembered arm laid Brad gently on the edge of the pool and sank back down, too. The pool basked in the noonday sun.
Brad heard heavy footsteps and froze.
A gloved hand scooped him up. “Aw, will you look at that. A frog. I’ll lob you over the fence, buster. Special security pass for frogs, haha.” The gardener lobbed. Brad whizzed over the fence and splat, landed on the grass outside the fence. Zap, he changed back into his twenty two year old, naked body. Brad got up and ran for his life.
7pm, the Bar ‘n Grill. Dim lights. At the bar sat drop-dead gorgeous Bea, draped in something slinky, her pale skin dusted with freckles, her red hair cascading round her shoulders, her full lips curved in a welcoming smile.
At last, his dream date.
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Brenda Anderson’s fiction has appeared in places like Andromeda Spaceways, A cappella Zoo, Punchnel’s and Penumbra. She lives in Adelaide, South Australia, with her husband and two children, and loves the offbeat.