The girl plopped herself down by the creek with a huff. She picked up a stick and traced some noncommittal shapes in the muddy bank. She sighed again.
“You’re certainly a believer in sighing,” observed a salamander sprawled flat against the top of a lily pad that swayed in the stream’s weak current.
“I beg your pardon,” stammered the girl. “Did you just speak? To me?”
“Is there anyone else here making a grand show of her disappointment?” The salamander sounded matter-of-fact but seemed to wink. Though her experience with salamander rhetoric was nonexistent mere minutes ago, the girl felt as if she would have had trouble interpreting him even if she were extremely versed.
Her best guess at an appropriate response was: “I’m not sure I appreciate your tone,” which seemed to leave it to the amphibian to clarify.
“I’m not sure I appreciate my meditations being interrupted by an adolescent’s melodramatic exhalations.”
What exactly that meant, she was not sure. So she gestured to the lily pad. “Are you quite comfortable on there?”
“As a matter of fact, I am not. But therein lies a secret of my meditation. Constantly having to readjust myself gives me a certain focus.”
“Oh.” She paused for a moment as a thought occurred. “Can I kiss you?”
“I’m sorry, what?” The salamander nearly lost his precarious battle for balance.
“Kiss you. And if you turn into a prince, then we can be married, and I will be happy.”
The salamander frowned, it seemed. “If your happiness depends on kissing a member of a different genus, I should think it ill-earned. No, young lady, you may not kiss me for that reason. If you wish however to kiss me because you have enjoyed my company, then very well.”
She did so, then: scooping him up from his water lily and pecking him on what she assumed to be his cheek. He spoke intimately then, held close to her face. “You will find I shall change little as a result of this, but you might rather a lot. I should think you’ll rarely sigh from now forward.”
And he was right, as salamanders almost always are.