Once upon a time, there lived a princess in a white-bricked, two-storey house, complete with a shaded front porch and a tiddly garden. She had light brown eyes, thin lips, and a sprinkle of freckles—a reflection of innocence on her small, youthful face, framed by her short dark brown locks from her mixed heritage. She was like every other child, except for her name—her mother called her Puteri.
Puteri’s favourite past-time was an evening in the neighbourhood park—a gathering ground for the city-dwelling children to be one with Mother Nature. Every Friday, Puteri would bring her golden ball to the field, adjacent to a lotus pond, to toss, kick, and bounce. As she wasn’t very fond of the playground’s swings and slides, Puteri preferred her more solitude activity away from the other children. But on one fateful evening, to her dismay, her golden ball went bouncing into the still water.
“Do you need a hand?” a voice asked.
Puteri hadn’t noticed anyone else around—jumping startled at the sudden intrusion of her quiet playtime. Looking up from where her golden ball had disappeared into, she saw the owner of the voice—he stood across the pond with wide curious eyes, as though he’d never seen a girl before.
“Yes,” Puteri replied. “Can you retrieve my ball for me?”
“If I do so, will you be my friend?” he asked.
“Why do you need a friend?” Puteri frowned. She didn’t understand why friends were important—she enjoyed her own company and that alone was enough.
“I don’t like playing by myself,” he said.
“I do,” Puteri stated. “But if you don’t like playing by yourself, why don’t you go and make friends?”
“No one will play with me.”
“I see.” Puteri had no interest in being the strange creature’s friend, but she didn’t want to wade through the dark water either. So, for the sake of her beloved golden ball, she said, “I’ll be your friend if you retrieve my ball.”
“You will?” He beamed.
“Yes.” Puteri nodded and pointed to where her ball had sunken. “It’s somewhere over there.”
“At your service, princess,” he replied, promptly entering the pond.
The still water wasn’t as deep as Puteri had imagined—her imagination often wilder than her dreams. Once she was handed her golden ball, Puteri said, “Thank you.” Not waiting for a response, she promptly turned on her heel—ready to break her promise.
“Wait,” he said. “Aren’t you going to play with me?”
“Maybe next week,” Puteri hastily replied, before running home.
Puteri hoped to never see the frog again—his big round eyes, Cheshire-like grin, and stubby frame were perhaps the reasons why he had no friends. Alas, when the next Friday rolled around, there he was again.
“Hi,” he said, with a wide smile. “Do you want to play?”
“You promised,” he said.
“I didn’t promise anything. I said, maybe,” Puteri stated.
“But you said you’ll be my friend,” he insisted. “We can toss your ball, and if it falls into the pond again, I’ll get it for you.”
Puteri hesitated. Then seeing how his excitement began to turn into disappointment—the mien of a broken heart—she said, “Fine. One game. Just one game.”
“Thank you,” he said. “We don’t have to talk if you don’t want to.”
Puteri nodded and tossed him her golden ball. For a while, the two played without a word—the golden ball bouncing back and forth, while the shouts and laughter of the other children filled the silence. It was a bizarre game but Puteri slowly came to enjoy his company—simply having someone to toss the ball to brought comfort. And it was then that Puteri entertained the idea of keeping a friend—to have someone who truly wanted her around. Alas, before she could ask her first friend for his name, the clouds began to grumble.
“Puteri,” her handmaid called. “It’s going to rain. Let’s go home.”
“I have to go,” Puteri stated, just as her golden ball bounced into her arms.
“Next week?” he prompted
“Sure,” Puteri replied with a smile.
“Let’s go, Puteri,” her handmaid repeated, reaching for Puteri’s hand. “Who are you talking to?”
“My friend,” Puteri said.
“Your friend?” her handmaid asked, bewildered as she glanced around. “Where?”
Puteri pointed to the pond where he sat poised on a floating lotus leaf, bearing the same curious gaze as though he’d never seen a woman before.
“The frog?” her handmaid asked.
“Yes. He’s my friend.”
Her handmaid chuckled. “Frogs make good friends,” her handmaid said. “Come now.”
“Is mummy coming home for dinner?” Puteri asked. Her mother often encouraged her to make friends—it would excite her to learn that Puteri had actually made one.
“Not tonight, dear,” her handmaid said.
Her handmaid gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “Maybe next week. Your mommy and daddy are very busy people.”
“You’ll have dinner with me tonight and we can talk all about your new friend, all right?”
Puteri nodded. She would rather have dinner with her friend, but she doubted her parents would let her bring him home. Though, would they notice if she did? They were rarely around. The only thing that was of them was the golden ball. And that itself was merely a reminder of their existence. At the very least, it made her… a friend.
12 Genre Months © 2019 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)