Chapter 24: Something Borrowed Piggy had made an entrance pretty much every night she’d been there, and had also, with alarming frequency, made a spectacle of herself. Still, nothing she had done to date had garnered more sheer astonishment than her arrival that night. The newest The Frogs were fashionably and predictably late, having seen the last of the afternoon swimmers graciously off. By the time they had gathered the last of their things (which is to say, Piggy’s things), and made their way back to their own place, Piggy felt compelled to redo her toilette and take a little extra time with her hair. The perm she had embraced for filming was succumbing to time and wear and swamp water. She brushed it into soft waves, the ends still curling into ringlets, but seemed dissatisfied and finally sent Kermit ahead. She arrived in the clearing some ten minutes after her husband, wearing a pink linen dress. It was sleeveless to show off her plump and rosy arms, and she had resumed her lavender satin gloves, but it was not the dress or the gloves that made the crowd stare in startled disbelief. It was the scarf—THE scarf—the one that Kermit had bought for Maggie on her first visit to him on the set of Sesame Street—that caught everyone’s attention. Piggy was wearing it to hold her hair back from her face, and had it tied into a soft fluffy bow just in front of her ears. In a society where clothing was scarce to nonexistent, something as distinctive as Margaret’s cherished, much-bandied-about dainty was as individual as a fingerprint. Even Jane looked flabbergasted at the sight of that cherished trifle adorning Piggy’s tresses, but she covered quickly, reaching out to take Piggy’s hands in hers. “How, um, pretty you look,” she said hastily. “And, um, what a lovely scarf you’re wearing.” Piggy’s first love—even before Kermit—had been the stage. Had she been in the largest theatre on Broadway, her voice would have carried distinctly to the back row. “Why thank you,” she said, one hand going for her hair. “It is lovely—isn’t it? Maggie was sooo sweet to lend it to me.” The sound of crickets chirping was loud in the sudden silence. When the crickets recognized their conspicuousness, they hushed immediately as if aware of their precarious place in the cycle of life. “Ah,” said Jane, her eyes bright with grateful tears. “Oh. Oh! That was…that was very sweet of Margaret.” “Oh yes,” said Piggy, with just the right touch of off-handedness. “So very thoughtful of her. I thought the color matched my eyes.” Talking began abruptly as though a switch had been flipped back on. Kermit went to Piggy’s side, suddenly understanding the reason she had sent him on ahead. Piggy turned and looked at him, her blue eyes huge and innocent. For a moment, Kermit wished he had been able to witness the meeting of those two minds, but his musing was cut short. Supper was served, and the entire The Frog family sat down and tucked in with relish. Well, almost. Orville and Norville had followed up their helpful and child-friendly demeanor of the afternoon with great politeness and good manners to their fellow frogs. Several people watched with wonder (verging on open-mouthed astonishment) as they waited their turn in the chow line only after assisting a couple of elderly aunts and actually intervened in a pre-teen pile-up, rerouting the overeager youngsters to alleviate the clog. Croaker had commandeered Kermit’s attention and they were laughing like the old friends they were. There was a moment when Piggy felt oddly elated over being excluded, and she wondered at it for a moment before she divined the meaning of her odd mood. Suddenly, her expression turned surprised, then amused, and finally, triumphant. She understood. Kermit was no longer worried about Piggy’s ability to either fit in or take care of herself. He now felt free to enjoy the company of his old friends and leave her to mingle. At Hollywood shindigs, Kermit had often sent Piggy out to do the hard work that she was so consistently good at—schmoozing the bigwigs and taking the pulse of both the gossip and the fashion quotient in the room. Later, they would meet up to compare notes and, depending on her mood and the status of their couplehood, she would fill him in on what she had learned. If they were in one of their on-again phases, she could usually be bribed with dinner or—if she had some particularly juicy tidbit to share—dinner and a show. If there were in one of their off-again phases, or if one of the many young wolves of Hollywood had attempted to barter for a chance to howl at her door, Piggy usually passed on her tidbits with dispatch and left with an airy “I’m off the clock now, frog.” While Piggy slithered artfully around the room, Kermit was no slouch. He was, in fact, his usual affable and accessible self. People liked him—people flocked to him in a friendly fashion to say hello and ask about what the company was up to. Though this was not the usual Hollywood style—too honest and too un-slick for the usual Tinseltown mores—Kermit’s contributions to the cause were as essential as Piggy’s. If Kermit said Rainbow Productions was looking for backers, people either expressed interest and showed up with their checkbooks, or kept tabs on the project for future reference. Kermit’s reputation for straight dealing dealt him out of the usual politics and mostly allowed him to run his company in a more straightforward fashion than most. Although sometimes a tad too trusting, Kermit could afford to be a little naive. He had little fear of their ideas being scooped or stolen. For reasons not yet entirely clear to the ambitious amphibian, his little band of entertainers never quite seemed to being doing what everybody else in town was doing—either professionally or personally. This likely contributed to the general attitude of unthreatened and friendly goodwill that greeted him wherever movers and shakers congregated. This had that feel about it to Piggy—the feeling of being trusted to do her part and to leave the rest to Kermit. It was a happy feeling, a feeling of being both wanted and needed, but while she was becoming acclimated to swamp life in her own inestimable way, it nevertheless instilled in her a bit of genuine homesickness. Shopping with Sherwood had been a treat—the man had a wonderful eye for color and a complete inability to lie—but Piggy missed Saks and Tiffany’s and Rodeo Drive. She missed limos and taxis and mints on her pillows, steamy bubble baths and television. Still, looking around her at the sea of welcoming faces, Piggy found those things fading a little in comparison. She wondered what it would be like to live here—truly live here in the swamp surrounded by more family than she had ever imagined. Everyone had tried so hard to make her feel welcome—well, almost everyone—and Piggy felt a surge of affection. After all, stores were crowded, and even five-star hotels sometimes tried to give you the second-string towels. And the neon lights were just artificial illumination. This place had spawned Kermit—her Kermit—and had shaped the frog he would become. How awful could it be? In fact, it might be-- God may well protect fools and children, but Fate is a prankster at heart At just that moment, Piggy’s artfully shod foot sank into the soft earth and she stood there for a moment contemplating the wet, squishy earth between her toes. On the other hand, Broadway was lovely this time of year. And, while it had been wonderful to have Kermit much more to herself after they had wrapped their third movie and stopped production of The Muppet Show, Piggy was already beginning to find herself restless from a professional point of view. She…she didn’t know what the months and even years ahead would hold—only that they would include Kermit. That still hadn’t quite sunk in. Her foot, on the other, um, hand, had. Piggy braced herself and heaved her footwear out of the muck. Smiling ruefully, Piggy carried tea to her father-in-law, who was deep in conversation with one of the elderly aunts. Sufficient unto the day…. Maggie had not hung out with Orville and Norville for naught. She balanced on the tall tree branch and surveyed the moonlit swamp. The sounds of laughter and eating had been replaced with the more subdued murmur of conversation, and she could hear the bright plink of instruments being tuned. Maggie felt a great swell of pride and possessiveness sweep over her, rooting her to this swamp—her swamp. The image of Yertle the Turtle swam up to the surface of her brain from the depths of childhood, and she smiled. She had been acting a bit like a petty dictator, but Mit had understood after all. Why on earth she had thought that him getting married would change them she could not imagine. She dropped another stone into the water, liking the deep “plop” of sound it made. She couldn’t see the ripples, but she knew they were there, reaching out in ever-widening circles toward infinity—just like Kermit’s dream. He…he had made a lot of people happy, and Margaret the Frog realized in a rush of emotion that she had been one of them. Because Kermit had chased his dream out of the swamp, Maggie had first known and understood that she could dare to grasp hold of her dearest dream and let it take her where it would. Was that why she had hesitated? And resented? Because Kermit’s success was a reminder of all the unfulfilled potential inside of her? On some level, Maggie now knew it to be true, but she also knew that she could not go back to pretending that she didn’t have any responsibility—to herself and to the world—to follow her own dream as well. She looked toward the glow of the bonfire, and smiled in spite of herself. That scheming little pig had probably done everything but run her scarf up the flagpole by now. Smart cookie, that. It was entirely possible that she might pick up a few pointers if she kept her eyes and her aural organs open. The sounds from the clearing were drawing her, drawing her in, drawing her home. She squared her slim shoulders, took a deep breath, and hopped down. It was time to pay the piper. If she was lucky, she might even get to dance to the piper’s tune. Kermit had lost his seat the instant he’d gotten up, and came back to find his place of honor at Piggy’s side supplanted by half a dozen small frogs. “Hey,” he objected mildly. “Move over and make room for your Uncle Kermit.” Scores of eyes stared at him, then slipped slyly to the side. “You move,” someone whispered. “No, you move—I was here first!” “Were not!” “Were so!” “Make Mikey move—he’s a tadpole, anyway.” “I am NOT a tadpole,” someone—presumably Mikey—objected. There were sounds of scuffling. Kermit put his hands on his hips. “If somebody doesn’t get up—“ he began in a warning tone. Laughing, Piggy stood up and reached for his hand. So tightly pressed were the small frogs around her that her spot on the log, too, immediately disappeared in a tumble of little frog bodies. Piggy took Kermit’s hand firmly and began to lead him away from the circle of firelight. “Hey!” “What happened?” “Where are you going?” several little frogs wailed. Piggy regarded her cheering section fondly. “I’m going for a walk with your Uncle Kermit,” she said. “Can we come?” wailed Doralee, but without much hope. Cee Cee shot her a look and rolled her eyes. Doralee could be sooo dense. “Certainly not,” Piggy said fondly. She surveyed the troops like a five-star general. “Cee Cee—you make sure everyone shares the marshmallows. Dakota and Jacob can keep the little ones back from the fire.” She tried to look stern. “No bickering,” she insisted, then took Kermit’s hand and led him away. It was a beautiful night. The moon was almost full, with the barest crescent missing, and the light of it filled the swamp with an other-worldly glow. When they were safely out of range of both small and large eyes and ears, Piggy stopped, lifted her arms to Kermit’s neck and kissed him like she’d been waiting to do it all day, which she probably had. Taken by storm but not surprise, Kermit withstood this assault on his senses bravely, answering her kiss with enough ardor to convince her he’d been hoping for just this when he’d followed her out into the sweet swamp grasses. With a shaky laugh, Piggy stepped back, then let Kermit take her hand and tuck it under his arm. They strolled around the quiet clearing, their skin moon-dappled by the pale glowing light. Kermit inhaled the rich earthy smell of the swamp, caught the faint elusive scent of Piggy’s shampoo beneath the stronger smells of sunscreen and bug spray. He sighed, deeply content on almost every level, and heard Piggy’s answering sigh mirror his. “Beautiful night,” Kermit said. “Lovely,” Piggy said. There was a little pool of moonlight, and Kermit gestured to it grandly. “Your spotlight,” he said, with a flourish of his hand, and handed Piggy into it before joining her there. Piggy seemed suddenly shy as Kermit stepped forward and put his arms around his wife. “Happy?” he asked, not really needing her answer to know the truth. “Yes,” she said fervently. “So happy.” Kermit smiled, enjoying her wonder and the way she was looking at him in the moonlight. Piggy’s new look had given him a lot more to look at today, and he appreciated the soft fullness of her in his arms. “Me too,” he said, and his voice sounded husky. It was no trouble at all to lean forward and kiss her, and he felt her happy sigh of contentment as her lips worked with his. “Mmmmm,” he murmured. “Mmmmm,”Piggy agreed. She heard the soft night sounds of the swamp, and though it was as soft and soothing as a lullaby, sleep was far from both of their minds. “Think anyone would miss us if we didn’t come back?” Kermit asked. He knew the answer but hoped Piggy would join him in his delusion. Piggy laughed, then gently disentangled herself. “Are you kidding?” she asked. “The last thing we need is a frog scout patrol scouring the swamp for us.” She gentled her response with another kiss or two, and though Kermit turned reproachful pollywog eyes on her, she managed to withstand same. “Besides,” Piggy said reasonably, “If we don’t go back soon, there won’t be any marshmallows left.” Kermit muttered something unkind about marshmallows, but ruefully, and let Piggy lead him around the clearing until they rejoined the others. A quick glance told them Cee Cee seemed to have her charges well in hand, and they slipped into the back row of logs on the opposite side of the clearing and sat. Soon, music would start, and Kermit would play, filling the clearing and the swamp and Piggy’s heart full to bursting with songfulness and joy. She had not believed it possible that she could love Kermit more than she had the day he proposed, but she found that she did so now. Maybe Kermit could read her thoughts, for he turned to her and smiled. “Glad you married me, Mrs. The Frog?” Piggy’s eyes were shining, luminous in the moonlight. “Yes,” she said. “So very, very glad.” “Me, too.” Kermit the still-newlywed frog leaned forward, but he was spotted before their lips could meet. “Kermit! Cousin Kermit! Get up here!” “We need another banjo!” “Stop spooning and play already!” Kermit smiled at Piggy, sighed, and reached for her hand. She took it and followed him to log nearer the fire—and the other musicians. “Any requests?” he asked her, shouldering his banjo. Piggy’s voice was low, pitched for his aural organs only. “Plenty of time for that later,” she teased, and Kermit felt his heart go pitter-pat. Yes—plenty of time for that, he thought happily. A lifetime of time for that. He settled himself more comfortably on the log next to Piggy and began to play an old Appalachian folk tune. “She’s gone away for to stay a little while,” he sang softly. “But she’s coming back if she goes ten thousand miles. Oh who will tie her shoes, and who will brush her hair, and who will kiss her ruby lips when she is gone. Look away, look away, over yonder.” He pronounced the last word “yandro,” the way the original author of the song may have done. Piggy looked at him, her eyes shining, and watched his fingers moving over the strings. “I’m goin’ away for to stay a little while,” she picked up the verse. “But I’m coming back, if I go ten thousand miles. Oh who will tie my shoes? And who will brush my hair? And who will kiss my ruby lips when I am gone? Look away, look away—over yonder.” Kermit leaned forward without missing a beat on the banjo and answered at least one of the questions. When they broke apart, they were smiling at each other in the moonlight. Piggy scooted over beside him and rested her shining head on his shoulder as he played. Kermit changed songs, shifting to another old Appalachian song. “I wonder as I wander out under the sky,” Kermit began, his voice light and clear. His cousin Kendra joined him on the next line, her contralto voice blending beautifully with his. His brother Leonard came in the chorus, his rich bass adding weight and balance. On it went, voices coming and going, blending and fading, while Kermit’s fingers danced lightly over the instrument. Requests were made, and Kermit played on. Some songs were solemn, some of them silly or telling a tale. It was a coincidence—almost an accident, really—that he saw her. Kermit had just finished Barbry Allen, a mournful tune about lost love, and was tuning up a string that had gotten slack. Listening with his head cocked to the side, a subtle movement near the edge of the clearing caught his eye. He looked up, and his eyes met those of his sister Maggie. Surprise made him silent, which was fortunate, because a public acknowledgement of her presence might have sent her scurrying away, but since he did not speak, they looked in silence at each other for a long moment. Maggie’s eyes were unreadable, Kermit’s sad. Come in, he pleaded silently. Be a part of this with us. For a moment, Maggie looked away—Kermit held his breath—but then she shrugged, the merest lift of the shoulders. Kermit was never going to be an expert on women, but he had been married long enough to know that that little shrug meant. His face broke into a wide smile as Maggie squared her shoulders and marched boldly into the crowd. There was a little murmur of excitement as the crowd shifted nervously. “Sheesh,” she said, thrusting her chin at the banjo. “Can’t you play anything lively on that thing?” “I can play anything you can sing,” Kermit challenged. Maggie’s eyes narrowed and she put her hands on her lean hips. “Oh, realllly,” she said. “You’re on.” The tension in the crowd evaporated. Leaning against Kermit, one arm tight around his middle, Piggy felt him relax, felt him let the tension roll right off his slender frame. He turned to her and grinned. “I know that look,” Piggy murmured, wondering if Maggie was up for the laughing challenge in Kermit’s eyes. Kermit shot her a look, equal parts delighted and annoyed to be so well known. “Maggie knows it, too,” he told her wryly. Piggy stifled a smile, amused by the way the old sibling rivalry brought out the devilry in her spouse. She patted him fondly on the back, and waited to see what would happen next. With Kermit, you never quite knew.