_Written by: Jory Stultz _
She stood with her bare feet sunk into the mud, pushing tiny pebbles between her toes. Looking behind her, over the grassy hill, she could see her house; not to far from the mouth of the creek. It made her feel safe knowing her mother was just inside.
There was a huge gust of wind that carried Mary's attention to the enormous trees on the other side of the creek. Darkness from inside the woods stared Mary strait in the eye. She was told by her mother never to go into the woods and she knew better not to. Mary was only eight years old, and she knew and acted her age; you might even say she reveled in it. There wasn't a sunny day Mary wasn't down by the creek catching crawdads and hopping along the stones.
Mary stared down at the water, at her wavy reflection. As the ripples settled she noticed something red in the water. It must be blood… She thought. But where was it coming from?
She followed the bright red trail a little ways down the creek and what she found puzzled her; something she'd never seen before. It was a white frog floating at the waters top. It appeared to glow as Mary knelt down to take a closer look.
"Wow!" Mary touched the frog and as she did, the glow around it got brighter and brighter.
"Are you a magic frog?" Muttered Mary, turning the frog on its side. She let out a gasp when she saw a cloud of red blood coming from the frog's stomach. "Oh my goodness, you're hurt!" Mary flailed her arms in the air and cried, not knowing what to do. Then the frog started kicking its legs. It was swimming away, toward the woods.
"Wait! Come back!" Mary yelled, chasing after it along the bank.
The darkness of the woods surrounded Mary, but the white glow from the frog lit the way. For some reason Mary's fear of the dark and the woods didn't affect her one bit. Her mind was still on the poor wounded frog. Then, after a long and winding chase, Mary finally yelled,
"STOP!" And it did. It stopped and waited for Mary to catch up. When she made it to the frog she saw something else she'd never seen before. Now, cradled in the frog's arms, there was a bundle of glowing eggs. They illuminated with spectacular colors that reflected off the waters bed.
"You're a mommy?" Mary tilted her head. The frog stared at Mary with big, black reflective eyes. "What do you want me to do froggy?" A tear fell from Mary's eye as more blood came from the frog. "I want to help you, but I don't know what to do!"
The frog looked down at her eggs then back to Mary and somehow she knew what the frog wanted from her. Somehow she knew the poor mommy frog wasn't going to be around much longer.
"You can't leave froggy!" Mary cried. "You're babies won't have a mommy to look after them!" The frog continued to stare at Mary with now fading eyes. "What? I can't take care of these babies… I just, I can't!" Mary pouted. "Can't you find another froggy to watch them?"
The frog's eyes began to close, slowly, and it's body softly sinking beneath the mucky water. Mary's heart dropped a little. She simply wasn't prepared for the responsibility. As the frog finally let go, its glow began to fade to a pale gray. She was gone and Mary was left alone in the dark woods. The faint glow from the eggs turned a deep-deep blue; streaming along the water like tears.
A sickening melancholy crept over Mary. She had never felt this way before. It made her feel cold and alone. In a sudden panic, Mary ran as fast as she could out of the woods leaving the eggs behind.
"I made you some soup mommy…" Mary stood beside her mother's bed holding a dinner tray that looked twice her size. It held a small cup of tomato soup and two slices of poorly buttered bread.
"Hi sweetheart." Mary's mother opened her weary eyes and placed a clammy palm on Mary's arm. "You made me some soup?" A smile came to her face.
"Mhhmm." Mary nodded and smiled back with pride.
"Thank you dear."
"You're welcome mommy."
A calming pause fell between them. It had been a month exactly since Mary's mother was hospitalized with a horrible flu. As days went by her symptoms didn't get any better. She often found herself struggling to do simple tasks around the house, as he strength was exhausted completely.
"Mommy? Mary looked up at her mother with wide glossy eyes.
"What is it dear?"
"When are you gonna be better?"
Another pause came. This one seemed to take hold.
"Come here baby…" Mary's mother whispered softly, trying not to get choked up. Mary climbed up onto the bed next to her mother and nuzzled into her side. "You don't have to worry about that, okay sweetheart?" Tears started to form in her eyes. "Mommy's gonna be better real soon, okay? She's gonna be better soon…" Mary closed her eyes and fell asleep in the warmth of her mother's embrace. Though Mary's mother knew she was asleep, she continued to talk and sing to her until the sunlight faded and the stars dressed the night sky.
As Mary and her mother slept through the night, a strange sound woke Mary from her slumber. Her eyes jolted open. She looked to her mom who was still sound asleep and decided she wouldn't wake her.